Alumni Perspective: Creating a Network for Mental Health

A recent graduate of Wharton’s Executive MBA Program based in San Francisco, Sachin Chaudhry envisions improving mental healthcare globally with TrustCircle, a peer-centered mental health network.

Sachin Chaundhry, WG'13
Sachin Chaundhry, WG’13

Twenty years ago, my brilliant brother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia, and quickly ostracized by our community in India. During our visits to the hospital, I uncovered that my family is not alone. The trials and challenges of living with mental health issues is huge; however,  facing the stigma associated with mental illness may be even worse.

That’s no surprise: people with mental and psychosocial disabilities are “among the most marginalized groups in developing countries,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Globally, more than 450 million people meet diagnostic criteria for mental or behavior disorders, according to a 2013 WHO report.

Therefore, in 1994, I led the setup of a local social network, Hope, which coordinated meet ups for families to share and learn from each other. Stigma made families reluctant at first, but soon children who had lost confidence made new friends and started expressing themselves. Families started to realize they are not alone in this battle and can be a support system for each other.

Little did I know that I was paving the way for my current social enterprise, TrustCircle.

Connecting people to better health

TrustCircle is a peer-centered mental health network for consumers, caregivers, and mental healthcare providers.

Despite progress since my brother’s diagnosis, my family is still struggling to find solutions to two core problems: access to trustworthy community support, and access to mental healthcare professionals.

I founded TrustCircle with a goal to alleviate those problems for all families. We exist to revolutionize timely access to trustworthy community support and mental healthcare providers by leveraging technology innovations to connect people to efficient, high quality mental health services.

Our initial, self-funded, invitation-only launch will focus on the peers and caregivers community. Post funding, we will target an additional 30,000 peers and caregivers, including mental healthcare providers in United States. From there, we will expand that focus to a global network serving all those with all types of mental health issues, worldwide.

TrustCircle is already creating ripples in the healthcare industry, unlike other ventures that are only focused on improving patient-doctor relationship; TrustCircle is also focused on holistic recovery of an individual by building community of trustworthy peers and caregivers.

The venture is backed by respected medical experts and consumers in the field of mental health, including Keris Myrick, President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Dr. Matcheri Keshavan, a psychiatry professor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard Medical School.

So far, we’ve been included in the Global Mental Health Innovation Network database, won the “Most Social Venture” award at the 2013 Wharton Business Plan Competition, and made our debut at the World Innovation Summit for Health in Qatar last year. And this January, we were nominated for the ScatterGood Foundation Innovation Award.  

The opportunity is huge, global, and needs urgent attention.

“Almost half of the world’s population lives where, on average, there is one psychiatrist (or less) to serve 200, 000 people,” says the World Health Organization’s Dr Shekhar Saxena. “Many low-income countries have less than one mental health specialist per one million population.”

Unlike several diseases, many mental health issues last a lifetime and do not have a cure today. Even though many of these illnesses can’t be cured, the symptoms can be managed and a person can lead a fulfilling life with access to proper mental healthcare and services.

To change this reality, I believe in leveraging technology innovations to build a life-changing service. Wharton has empowered me with all the tools and an invaluable network to build this platform that delivers hope to peers and caregivers battling mental health issues – a hope that will make people believe “if we can’t control the tides, we sure can learn to surf them.”

trustcircleSachin Chaudhry, WG’13, is the Founder and CEO of TrustCircle. Sachin also serves as an Advisory Board Member at Society of Rehabilitation for Mentally Challenged in India. Sachin began his career as a software developer and rose to the ranks of IT leader in technology startups and Fortune 500-ranked organizations. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the National Institute of Technology, India and an MBA from The Wharton School.