Over the past two months, LBS has become a 100% virtual campus, with programmes, conferences, club activities and social events all moving online. 2019 One Young World ambassador Prasannajeet Mane MAM2020 explains how he has spent lockdown: working on a digital mental health platform with the backing and guidance of several LBS professors.
With more than two billion people in some form of lockdown, the scale of anxiety, isolation and grief being experienced globally is difficult to imagine. The pandemic, social restrictions and uncertainty is arguably the greatest psychological experiment we’ve ever faced.
With social restrictions forcing huge changes to our daily lives and creating not just economic uncertainty but uncertainty over the physical health of ourselves, family and friends, the impact on mental health could be vast. Looking after our wellbeing has never been more important. Inspired by my own experiences of surviving a severe obsessive compulsive disorder – and leveraging the skills I’ve gained from the Masters in Analytics and Management (MAM) programme – I’ve started developing my startup venture NoSuffering.
The aim of NoSuffering is to automate and digitise the delivery of psychological care, particularly cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). It’s essentially an artificial-intelligence (AI) powered digital platform that will be able to do the job of a trained therapist. There’s a real scarcity of trained mental health professionals in developed markets like the UK as well as in emerging markets. In the UK, it can take between eight and 12 months to get a follow-up psychotherapy appointment through the NHS.
The NoSuffering concept came to me while I was talking to Professor Nicos Savva in his office before the lockdown. Professor Savva is an expert in AI, data science and healthcare delivery, and he’s now helping me develop NoSuffering. I’m also receiving enormous support from Narayan Naik, Gary Dushnitsky and Kamalini Ramdas.
It’s really amazing to have world-class faculty experts and thought leaders backing my startup. I’m excited to say that NoSuffering is getting a lot of traction already. I’ve already had my first investment and we’re talking to a number of pre-seed investors – all virtually of course.
Before the pandemic, I started a health and wellbeing initiative at LBS with my peer Carl Mönefors (MAM 2020) and the partner of an MBA2021 student, Ana Campomar, called Peer Support Group for Mental Wellbeing (PSG). Supported by the Student Association and LBS Wellbeing Services, we organised monthly events, where we’d invite guests, such as TED speakers, psychologists and business leaders, who had been affected by mental illness. They’d then share their insights and personal experiences of mental health challenges and the pressures that can arise from burnout, high expectations and career pressures.
Our first event in the Sammy Ofer Centre in February focused on the ‘perfectionist epidemic’. Social psychologist and TED speaker Dr Thomas Curran (@thom_curran) talked about the dangers of burnout and strategies for managing expectations. Emma Fox, Manager of Business Transformation at London Business School, spoke at our second event about overcoming depression as a student, mother and working professional, and becoming a leader of changing perceptions.
In the context of COVID-19, PSG helped to organise a webinar in April around mental wellbeing in times of crisis. We decided to make this seminar available to the public, not just the LBS community: you can access the session here. In it, well-known psychiatrist Dr Cyrus Abbasian highlighted ways to cope with negative emotions and look after our mental wellbeing. Afterwards, we received so many wonderful emails on how helpful the webinar was – not just from LBS students and staff but from students and professionals from around the world, particularly the US, India, Canada, Singapore, China and Australia. The feedback was overwhelming.
When it comes to how LBS has adapted to delivering virtual learning, I’ve been beyond impressed. So far, I’ve completed two virtual courses: ‘Managing Change’ by Raina Brands and ‘Pathways to Start-up Success’ by Gary Dushnitsky. It’s clear that our world-class professors and staff are putting in immense work to ensure that the online learning experience aligns with the LBS brand and quality. A great example of a timely response to disruption!
I’m now really looking forward to my next virtual elective, ‘Managing a Digital Organisation’, which will be delivered by Julian Birkinshaw. Julian is one of the world’s top management thinkers and as the venture I’m working on is a digital platform, this elective couldn’t be more relevant at this time. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Next time, we catch up with Lina Osman, an Executive MBA student at London Business School in Dubai, who highlights why learning about leadership and strategic management in times of crisis is so important.