Name: Natasha Puri
Natasha Puri is a student studying Global Public Health and Social Entrepreneurship at New York University. Natasha has been an active youth advocate, promoting public health prevention efforts and health policy. Most notably, she is working on a mobile app with other students called, emp(a)t(h)y, an innovation to combat mental health around the world. On January 31st Natasha presented her vision on how to combat mental health at the Youth Marketplace on Social Innovations for Health & Wellbeing event hosted at the United Nations by Every Women Every Child in partnership with the Office of the President of the General Assembly supported by the SDG Media Zone.
What is the inspiration behind your business and organisation? As college students in New York City, we have seen at first-hand the prevalence of mental health. Although resources are available for mental health, there are so many barriers that prevent youth from seeking them. In fact, many find them unhelpful as youth often seek for understanding, or empathy. After conducting numerous interviews, we were inspired by the ability for an individual to transform someone else’s life – through meaningful discussion and peer-to-peer connection. Humans have the ability to feel, understand, and relate – a certain consciousness that technology does not have.
What are the key foundations of your business? Empathy serves to provide the human-to-human connection that is most beneficial when confronting adversity. We understand the value of empathy, and its ability to connect people on the basis of shared experiences. Our goal is to combat mental health by humanizing healthcare.
How has your business grown since you first launched? Our business is currently in the preliminary phase. Six months in, we’ve developed a scalable and sustainable business model that is fit for a global platform. We initially targeted college campus where students felt a gap in mental health resources. After receiving positive feedback, we thought why not take our local initiative to a global platform? We were operating in an environment that already had resources available and thus decided to take this innovation to locations where resources were little to none
What have been your biggest struggles since launching? Given the gravity of mental health and the consequences, we want to ensure the app is a safe space where individuals can trust one another. In addition, as we are trying to implement the model in different places, we need to adjust it to fit the respective market. This includes being aware of cultural and social norms.
What have been your greatest achievements? Youth have truly begun to value our idea and mission – this is a huge achievement. Through our research and marketing efforts, we are developing a strong foundation of individuals who can not only use the app, but also benefit from it. Such support is integral to our innovation and its model.
What differentiates you from your competitors? We are not a mental health intervention or treatment, but rather a social innovation that provide an alternate outlet for individuals who are experiencing adversities. Our idea of empathy – shared experiences – rather than sympathy is what differentiates us. We are removing the stigma surrounding mental health, and providing an anonymous space for discussion.
How would you encourage someone who wants to use your service? This service is a great way to engage with someone who has gone through a similar experience! Whether it is anxiety due to a bad boss, or dealing with the loss of a friend – there are some situations that warrant an understanding. Perhaps another individual can give advice that is helpful or some reassurance, which certainly goes along way. Moreover, you have the opportunity to help someone else! For example, parents of children who are battling cancer and wish to share support, advice, and encouragement.
What are your goals for your business over the next few years? We want to expand our user base and target schools starting in the United States and India. Having these two environments to pilot our app will surely be advantageous to our scalable model. Overall, we want to decrease the burden of mental health illnesses and work towards Sustainable Development Goal #3 – “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being.”
What is your message to the reader? You are not alone! No feeling or experience is too small or too big to overcome. Mental health needs to be a discussion, and please be part of it. We need your voice, your experiences – you never know whom you can help.
Natasha, I am so inspired by the care and love you have for those suffering from mental health. I believe that in a society where empathy can be lacking, it is heartwarming to know, that innovations like yours, created within the mainstream entrepreneurial environment, places people at the CENTRE.
Thank you for sharing your story and please keep us updated on your progress.
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