I was always obsessed with studies and wanted to become a topper in my school or college. I always planned to ace competitive exams after school. I began preparing for the IIT-JEE exam when I was merely in Class 7. I attended Chaitanya institute in Nizampet for the preparations of IIT-JEE and scored well there too. I used to study 50 to 60 hours a week.
With so much pressure regarding the studies, I stopped giving time to any other activity. This affected me internally, and I started feeling low most of the times. I began to notice changes in my behaviour. I started losing memory and gradually lost interest in everything that I used to do earlier. Earlier, I played football, drew, did graphic designing and videography, but then I could barely remember how I used to enjoy those activities.
I didn't have a lot of friends, and I considered my girlfriend to be my best friend. For reasons unknown to me, she disappeared one day. When your social circle is that small, losing one person is a great loss, and it hit me quite hard.
One day while crossing the road, I was hit by an auto, and it twisted my back. It led to months of lying alone in a hospital bed, injections in my back and nobody to talk to. I was sixteen at the time. Despite all of this, I managed to top my intermediate exams and cracked my JEE mains. During this phase, I was back with my girlfriend, and it gave me comfort to feel that everything was back to normal.
I was then diagnosed with Eosinophilia, which is a disease that affects your immune system and in turn, your memory. At the time, I was in my first year at NIT Agartala, and there had already been seven suicides. In a place that has only the cream of the crop, the realisation that there are people that can outdo you is very overwhelming.
The pain of the surgery was unbearable. To paint you a picture, I had 40 holes in my nasal passage down to my throat, with cotton in each one to stop the bleeding. All my glands were filled with some infection. I distinctly remember looking at the vials of green fluid the doctors had pulled out of me; it made me sick to my stomach.
When all of this was going, I was having problems with my 'girlfriend'. She refused to visit me in the hospital. All of this was getting increasingly difficult to bear, and I ended up taking several sleeping pills to try to end it all. However, I was upset that it didn't work, in hindsight. I faced a lot of unpleasant side effects due to consuming sleeping pills.
I recovered. I cleared my SAT with an amazing score and was ready to leave the country and start afresh. However, we could not afford a loan, and I went back into my shell.
That was the day I decided I had no way out, yet again. I watched one of my peers from the university dying by suicide in front of my eyes. The experience of seeing somebody end their life in front of you is difficult to put in words. But it was the day I realised the actual number of people going through this struggle, and I wanted to do something about it for others, if not for myself.
Seeing that guy jump scared me enough to back off and run downstairs. Before this, I thought my family would be happy to have me gone since I was a failure anyway. But at that moment, I realised that ending my life would be a true failure.
I began taking care of myself again, put on some weight, started exercising, and research. Over the span of a year and a half, I taught myself the workings of business until I had enough to launch my start-up.
In May of 2020, I launched a website, findhope.in, that would provide others with a place to speak with a trained counsellor without any judgement. It is completely free, and our counsellors are all final year psychology students who are ready to begin their own journeys as counsellors. It is kind of a win-win situation as it works as an internship and exposure for them, and as free support and a helping hand for those in need.
When we receive clients with serious illnesses or need for medication, we direct them towards the right professionals that can treat them for a reduced price. At present, there are 15 professionals from all over India connected with us right now that have assisted us with decreased prices of treatment.
As per data, 85 % of the youth today dealing with mental health disorders don't get any support. Through my website, I want to provide free and continuous emotional support to reduce this treatment gap.
A lot of us don't understand what we are going through until its too late. It is important to get clinical intervention when it's required.
Even though the stigma associated with mental health is dismantling over time, but the youth today still struggle to seek help.
At the end of our clients' periods of counselling, we provide the option of an 'Emotional First Aid' course at minimal prices. It is beneficial to have that knowledge once therapy has ceased. At the end of the day, I cannot continue this venture unless I can sustain it.
The past few months have been difficult for us and carrying out the operations amid the pandemic has not been easy at all. But whenever I think of all those we have been able to help with our website to combat their mental health issues, it encourages me to keep going ahead with what I've been doing so far.
I want to create a safe space for all those who are fighting their inner battles silently to let out their thoughts and issues. The professionals who are connected through our website from all over India speak different languages, and it helps many clients to express themselves openly in their mother tongue.
All I know is that when I needed help, I couldn't afford it, or have the strength to approach somebody. My only goal is to try and ensure nobody else has to feel that way.
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