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Walden Magazine // Sep 15, 2015

Promoting Mental Health for Young Women in India

Dr. Sreeroopa Sarkar, MS in Psychology program director, received a 2014 Fellowship in Research and Applications for Social Change, a $10,000 grant administered by the Office of the President. Dr. Sarkar and faculty members Dr. Rachel Moore and Dr. Robin Friedman are pursuing their study “Mental Health Promotion Among Adolescent Girls and Young Women in India.”

The topic stems from Dr. Sarkar’s own childhood in India, where she experienced harassment beginning at the age of 8. “We see it constantly in public places, like public transportation, markets, grocery stores,” she says. “I had been touched and felt so uncomfortable and didn’t know how to deal with it.”

After studying psychology, Dr. Sarkar felt empowered to help young girls and women in her home country. “In terms of mental health, we don't have support in any of the developing countries at all, so that’s how my focus on mental health started.” For her PhD dissertation, Dr. Sarkar studied the mental health of adolescent boys and girls in Sri Lanka and India, and a faculty research grant from Walden in 2013 allowed her to research how girls in India define sexual aggression.

With funding from the fellowship, Dr. Sarkar returned to India to conduct a life skills intervention program with 25 students. “With the preanalysis of the data, we can already see a lot of acquisition of knowledge. They are feeling much more knowledgeable and confident after a 3-day training session,” she says.

Next, Dr. Sarkar will return to India to conduct an intervention program for domestic workers and laborers, a demographic of women particularly at risk for sexual aggression. She hopes to obtain more funding and expand the program to reach young women across both rural and metropolitan areas of India.

Dr. Sarkar and her colleagues will present their research at the 2016 International Congress of Psychology in Japan. They also hope to include more members of the Walden community. “We’d love to have our students get involved in the project to get hands-on research experience,” she says.