What happens when you stumble upon an unfulfilled social need? You leverage your skills to deliver positive change.

PsyPack Online Interface for Mental Health Practitioners
Image Source: PsyPack Instagram

When Abhay Singhal graduated from IIT Bombay in 2011, he had two international job offers lined up and waiting for him. But sometimes life has other plans. When circumstances contrived to bring him back home to Ludhiana, Punjab, he wasted no time in seeking out different opportunities. Taking the Indian Civil Services exams seemed like the obvious way forward for him. He was already well-versed in mathematics, so his choice for his first subject was clear. But little did he know that it would be his second subject, psychology, that would set him on the path towards creating PsyPack—an online psychometric testing service that was recently selected by RICH-Acceleration Initiative for Diagnostics (RICH-AID) for remote psychological assessments.

“When I first started studying psychology, I had not really seen any of it in reality. I had no personal experience of interacting with anyone who had a mental health condition,” says Abhay. But his fascination with the subject, and the impact it could create, grew. He soon began working with a UK-based psychiatrist looking to develop social–emotional learning in schools, putting his prowess in technology and his new-found knowledge of psychology to use. He also had opportunities to interact with numerous rehabilitation centres, psychiatrists, and psychologists, as well as the families of people who have died by suicide. “Those couple of years were transformative for me,” he explains, “I had never experienced anything like this before. It really jolted me from the inside.”

These experiences led him to create his first mental health start-up, TickTalkTo. “I noticed that the demand of people seeking help for their mental health was huge and that a lot of psychologists were willing to fill this demand, even pro bono. So, I set out to develop a platform, an online safe space, where the two sides could interact,” says Abhay. He built TickTalkToon two principles—keeping relationships with patients and ensuring long-term care.

But a persistent question continued to weigh on his mind. “How can we say that mental health is improving?” he asks. “This fundamental question pointed us towards the need for psychometric assessments—diagnostic tests and tools that can help us measure psychological outcomes.” And so, PsyPack was born.

In India, psychometric assessments are normally graded manually by psychiatrists and psychologists, a time consuming and expensive process that became considerably more complicated when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Most psychologists could still conduct clinics and services through online platforms and phone calls, but conducting behavioural assessments was becoming increasingly challenging.

Noticing the gap, Abhay decided to wield his technological and psychological know-how to do some good. He decided to build a web-based tool, PsyPack, to help mental health practitioners and clinics easily identify skills, knowledge, and personality. Presently, the start-up is working with independent practitioners, behavioural health clinics, and universities. Designed specifically for psychologists, therapists, social workers, and counsellors, PsyPack offers a wide range of standardised psychological assessments, in-clinic and remote administration, automatic scoring, graphing and reporting, and secure clinical record keeping. The start-up is part of a wider tele-mental health movement, aimed at improving access to mental health services across India, even in remote parts of the country.

PsyPack is also aiming to help mental health research in India progress. The service allows practitioners to share their assessments with researchers securely. “There are researchers publishing very relevant research assessments who want quick access to the psychologists who use them. We want our channel to become their point of connection,” reveals Abhay. The tests are highly standardised, have well-defined and accepted cut-offs, and can serve as a basis for large-scale studies on mental health.

Pivotal to PsyPack’s growth and success has been RICH-AID, who have strived to ensure thatthe PsyPack team interacts with the right stakeholders, receives funding opportunities, obtains mentoring on regulations to follow and directions to expand, and receives both market access and visibility.

For Abhay, this is only the beginning, and he is hoping that access to mental health care improves even further. “We want to get into hospitals and help them integrate mental health services along with physical health. And then, finally,we want to reach insurance firms, who can use PsyPack assessments to verify claims. This will enable them to cover mental illnesses so that mental health services become more affordable and accessible.”

From RICH, we wish him the loftiest of successes.

To know more about PsyPack, visit www.psypack.com.