The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, has developed an online tool, TreadWill, to help people cope with issues related to their mental health.

TreadWill is a website designed to help people deal with stress, low mood, lethargy and other depressive symptoms through different online exercises, questionnaires and games, Nitin Gupta, a professor at the Biological Sciences and Bioengineering department of the IIT, said.

People suffering from depressive symptoms such as feeling low and lack of pleasure in usual activities may find the contents of the site helpful, he said.
It will help in overcoming depressive symptoms and becoming more resilient against stressful events in the future, Gupta said.

The online tool has been developed by a team with collaborative support from the Computer Science and Engineering and HSS (Psychology) departments, and Dr Alok Bajpai, a psychiatrist, the professor said.

It is based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that helps people with depressive symptoms, Gupta said.

The effectiveness of CBT is well established for many mental illnesses, including mood and anxiety disorders.

Based on the proven methodology of CBT, TreadWill uses simple language to help users to identify involuntary negative thoughts and behaviour, Gupta said, adding that users are subsequently taught techniques to work on modifying their thoughts and actions.

He said that he has been studying anxiety, stress, and depression for many years and the most common problem that people face is wrestling with their thoughts while lying on the bed, and they desperately want their minds to calm down so that they can sleep.

But, whatever they try seems to fail, Gupta said, adding that people tell themselves not to worry, but they discover countless new things to worry about.

This work has discovered the secret to tackle anxiety, stress, exhaustion and full-blown depression successfully, he asserted.

Through simple questionnaires, the online tool can recognise differences in each users’ history and customise accordingly, Gupta said.

TreadWill would further help its users by sending personalised SMS alerts to help them stick to the programme till the end.

Elaborating further, Gupta said that TreadWill would offer a free and easy accessible alternative for those who are wary of attending in-person sessions at clinics.

Each TreadWill user is guaranteed the same quality of help and users can choose a pace comfortable to them, he added.

TreadWill uses simple forms (thought record worksheet, core belief worksheet) and games to practice the techniques of CBT in an engaging manner.

The game helps people focus on positivity in stressful situations and over time, the exercise helps build self-esteem. It also focuses on social engagement as a means of combating mental health issues, he said.

Every user of TreadWill can use support groups to share their experiences and to get support from other users. The smaller groups of users, called Peer Groups, have also been set up as private spaces where they can follow each others progress. This will help them form bonds and enhance their feeling of belonging, Gupta said.

In the future, TreadWill plans to scale the tool for different language users and offer cognitive training for other disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
Gupta said that if the user chooses to participate, they would have to go through six modules over a period of about six weeks. These modules will teach different skills of CBT, he said.

The users would be able to complete these modules at their convenience by sitting at their respective places, Gupta asserted.

The users mood would be assessed at different stages to analyze usefulness of the programme, he said.

He further added that the research team would send an email to the users just 90 days after completing the program to check the long-term effectiveness of the online programme.

Gupta also said that if TreadWill does not benefit users directly, the participation will help the team improve the program so that the website becomes more useful to people and society.