I’m Richa Singh, Founder of YourDost, and this is how I Lead from Within
Richa Singh is a Co-founder of the online counseling and emotional support platform, YourDost. YourDost is designed to foster mental wellness. It anonymously connects users with experts across various professions including psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, life coaches, and career guides. YourDost works through completely confidential individual sessions via free online chats, offering emotional support to users as well as breaking down the stigmas of mental health.
When I was in school, my hostel mate was so worried and overwhelmed about her placements, she committed suicide. I feel as though this could have been avoided if we knew what she was going through. What I noticed was, even though we had counselors and psychologists on campus, students weren’t really seeking their support or help.
When I started working on this issue I found that many people were stressed out because of exams, job pressures and relationship issues. However, most of these people were not willing to talk about their problems fearing the social implications of reaching out for help. That’s really what prompted me and my friends to found YourDost, an online counseling and emotional support platform. It’s a way for people to anonymously connect with experts consisting of psychologists, psychotherapists, counselors, life coaches, career guides and people with a rich and deep life experience, for free.
On The Stigma Around Mental Health
I think the biggest taboo is around the phrase ‘mental health.’ It’s associated with being insane or with madness. It’s seen as a sign of weakness if you seek support for or talk about your problems. We are a society where everybody keeps things to themselves, there’s a lot of taboo around sharing. We don’t share our emotions or feelings. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to increase awareness amongst people to tell them “it’s okay to seek support, it’s okay to talk about it. Everybody goes through it, you’re not the only one and there’s nothing wrong with you. We all go through ups and downs.” Whether you’re a man or woman, if you’re a human being, it’s okay to be vulnerable. That’s the biggest challenge that we face.
On Global Exposure & Shared Values
All my international experiences, specifically, helped me learn to communicate better. There was this fear that I always had, probably most people who are from a developing country have, that other nations are more advanced and that I wouldn’t look good in front of them. But once I was on my own and in the world, I realized the values that everybody across the world has, our human values, are actually very similar. Your caste, creed and a few other things might be different but your human values, such as “I care for my family, I care for my friends, I care for my children, I care for myself,” are all very similar.
It also helped me to think globally. There is a lot of stigma around therapy in India, which is not necessarily the case in the West. People are open to therapy. There the problem is that therapy and other forms of support are expensive. My own experiences have helped me to see how YourDost could grow globally, and the ways in which we could position ourselves.
On Changing Lives
I remember an example of this girl who came to us while she was preparing for one of the most coveted exams in India – the IAS exam. She didn’t really want to do it, but because of pressure from her parents, family, neighbors, and friends, she was studying for it. She never wanted to do it, all she wanted was to teach. She wasn’t able to speak up about it because of the pressure that she was facing from everyone. As we counseled her, we learned this. We helped her to talk about it with the people in her life, and today she is a teacher in one of the most reputed schools in Delhi.
Also, a lot of times people reach out to us late in the night. Often, they are homosexuals or bisexuals. India is such a closed society, we don’t talk about these kinds of things; they’re looked down upon. So, YourDost is a platform where they are able to talk to someone who is not judgmental, and could help them through their fear as an expert in the field; we are able to get them from focusing on the negativity to focusing on moving ahead in life.
There are multiple relationships at multiple times in life that have shaped me, but especially to start YourDost my relationship with my brother helped me a lot. He was always there. Everybody was saying “Don’t start up, that’s not the age, this is not the right time.” He was the only one who stood beside me and he was like “Okay, if you want to give it a try, please go ahead and do it.”
Another thing would be my relationship with my mom. I’ve seen her working since my childhood; I think watching her showed me how multitasking could be done to accomplish a lot.
My Guiding Values
My values are very simple, if there is something that I want, I will go for it from left, right, center, everywhere. I will keep going for it until I get it done. I don’t give up easily. I know that I might not be the smartest person in the room but I’ll make sure I surround myself with the smartest people and get the work done. I don’t give up, if something doesn’t work one way, I try it multiple other ways. So, patience and determination are things that have worked for me.
Companies like Apple, Microsoft, or Mercedes, they all started at some point. These companies were all built by regular people, like you and me, who just had the passion to build it and keep going for it. Nothing, not even a pencil, has been easy to build. Somebody thought about it, they went after it, they experienced failures, but they kept going for it until they were successful. It’s not like they’re the smartest people in the world, they learned over time and slowly became who they are.
It all boils down to the simple belief that everything that you’re trying to do, somebody has done it or you can draw parallels from someone who has done something similar. And all of them, anyone you think of, when they started, were as clumsy as you are right now. So it’s okay, you will build on it.
I also believe a lot in potential rather than what other people have done till now, or what someone’s past has been. I feel if your attitude is right and if you believe a lot in doing something, you will find your way to get that done. Those two values have helped me sail through a lot of things.
On Overcoming Challenges
Starting up has been the biggest challenge I have faced for various reasons, one of which is that I don’t personally come from the field of emotional wellness and mental health. It took me a lot of years and a lot of research to understand it better. If I had better knowledge about the field and the industry sooner, I would have done one or two things in my career much earlier.
On Following One’s Passion
We get a lot of requests where people ask, “Tell us which field is booming, what is doing good? I want to start a business in that field.” I feel it should be the other way around. It should be more of, “this is the area I feel quite strongly about, and I want to do something in it.”
My only piece of advice would be, if you feel very strongly about anything, any cause or anything in general, that is the field you should pursue. It might not be the most charming field for the VC, or it might not be the most booming field, but it’s still okay to go for it. You will find your way because your passion is backing you.