Reboot Wellness offers effective help for a range of mental health issues

Photo courtesy: Reboot Wellness
Living in Delhi, Saloni Malhotra, 36, couldn’t help but notice the psychological and behavioural problems that seemed to afflict many of the people she knew. Children as young as 12 were battling drug abuse, mental health issues were being brushed under the carpet, and many people seemed to be lonely or depressed. She found that there was a stigma attached to depression and other psychological issues, which made people reluctant to seek help. “If it’s a heart ailment or any physical issue, people don’t think twice about seeking help. But the mind is a much trickier business,” she says. 

Malhotra began to think of setting up a wellness centre that could come to the aid of people who needed help of this sort. The idea took hold four to five years ago as she discussed it with her partners, Sarita, 60, and Ashwini Anand, 61, who were then based in Singapore. Ashwini was a recovered alcoholic (he had been an alcoholic for 23 years). And Sarita had worked with the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association and the Singapore Prison Service for over a decade. The couple decided to relocate to Gurugram to join Malhotra in setting up the enterprise.

Reboot Wellness opened its doors in Gurugram in July 2017, offering services such as counselling, de-addiction therapy, psychiatric intervention or simply just a shoulder to cry upon. Reboot aims to help people get over the stigma associated with mental illnesses by providing sessions with psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors in a non-hospital environment.

De-addiction is another area that Reboot works on — be it smoking, drugs or alcohol. India has several de-addiction centres, which require patients to “check in” and stay on for a course of treatment, but Reboot has adopted a model commonly followed in Singapore, UK and Sweden, among other places. The patient needs to stay only for a week or, at most, two — for which Reboot has tied up with a couple of centres — and the rest of the treatment is done at their own centre. “Typically only 20 per cent of patients need to check in and usually only for the de-tox phase where you have to physically give up the act,” explains Malhotra. She says it takes almost two years for the craving to stop — and it is, of course, unfeasible for anyone to stay in a clinic for that long. Delhi’s AIIMS has both a check-in and OPD facility but there are perhaps no other OPD de-addiction centres that offer the kind and model of treatment that Reboot practices.

Pankaj Sarin (name changed), 45, who stayed at an alcohol de-addiction in Delhi for several months says he ”could not bear it any longer”. He argues that it is often “mind over matter” and he’d rather have the support of his mother to find that strength. Besides, the food is better! The support of loved ones can be as powerful a cure as denying a person access to the substance. 

For those who can’t afford continued individual sessions (typically between Rs 1,200 and Rs 2,000), there are free group meetings. These include Alcoholics Anonymous, Al Anon (Friends and Families of Alcoholics), Narcotics Anonymous, Co-dependents Anonymous, Schizophrenia Alliance and others. Typically, five to six people attend these group sessions.

One of Reboot’s biggest goals is to give people a community to hang out with — a community where you will not be judged or admonished. To do this, the Gurugram centre has come up with The Hang Out — a café- style space with WiFi, food, coffee and comfy seating. The Hang Out also acts as a co-working space to endow a sense of community to those who don’t have an office to go to. People are encouraged to take a monthly membership (Rs 3,000) just to come and “hang out” and meet other people. Also on offer are meditation, yoga and positive psychology sessions.

Visitors to The Hang Out include housewives or those who work from home.  “It’s just nicer to get out somewhere in the morning and interact with some people than being cooped up in the house all day,” says Malhotra. Depression and alcoholism among urban, affluent women has been on the rise and, in many cases, it is a sort of “hopelessness” or “lack of purpose” that leads to the malady in the first place, she adds.  

Reboot adopts innovative ways to do away with the stigma associated with these issues. A book reading, a movie night with a film on de-addiction, a “happiness” or “wellness” workshop, might allow people to introduce a friend to issues like addiction in a natural, non-intrusive way. “It may be that you can see that your friend needs help, but they won’t acknowledge it if you say so directly. This is a way to get the person introduced to the place in a non-threatening manner,” says Malhotra. A visit can open their eyes to the fact that help is available should they choose to take it.

One of Reboot’s biggest goals is to give people a community to hang out with. To do this, it has come up with The Hang Out — a café-style space with WiFi, food, coffee and comfy seating. | Photo Courtsey: Reboot Wellness
Malhotra says they have been overwhelmed by the response Reboot Wellness has received. They currently manage 100-120 patients a week. This includes people who come for a consultation, the free and paid sessions, and those who visit The Hang Out. Malhotra says that 20 per cent of patients have serious mental health issues, 40-45 per cent are de-addiction cases and around 40 per cent suffer from depression or have relationship problems.

The age group of those who come to seek help has been a surprise to the Reboot founders. Though they expected that most of their patients would be in the 30-50 age group, they have had children as young as 12 coming in as well. Many retirees who feel unwanted and purposeless are regulars too. Sometimes, corporate workshops help companies identify problems among their staff and such patients also turn up to be counselled or treated.  

Malhotra and her partners have boot-strapped the entire operation with their own savings. While they are yet to recover their investment, the revenue they generate now pays for their monthly costs. The trio is likely to raise funding to meet their dream of setting up 100 Reboot Wellness centres across India. There are also plans of creating an online platform for engagement.

Reboot Wellness is clearly offering a much-needed service to people who are looking for psychological and emotional succour or trying to fight an addiction. Malhotra says that their greatest challenge, however, is to help people who have lost all hope. Medication can cure many ailments but no modern medicine can instil hope in a person and persuade him or her to reboot their lives. And that is where Malhotra and her partners hope to make a difference.