In the summer of 2020, Rohan Chalasani (Weinberg ’20), then Executive Director of WE ARE SAATH Feinberg, approached five North West undergraduates to ask if they were interested in starting a NU chapter of the national organization.
After talking to Chalasani, they agreed.
WE ARE SAATH is a national organization whose mission is to increase mental health resources for members of the South Asian community. The organization has networks at universities across the country, including a new branch at NU. In many South Asian languages, “we are saath” translates to “we are together”.
“We knew we wanted to create a space on campus that was relevant to the South Asian experience and its intersection with mental health and pressure, academic pressure, any type of pressure like that,” said Weinberg Jr. Shreya Mukherjee, co-founder of the NU chapter.
WE ARE SAATH NU was founded by Mukherjee, Weinberg sophomore Rishi Jain, McCormick sophomore Aru Singh, Rhea Sharma, sophomore at Weinberg and Weinberg’s second year, Preeta Kamat, the chapter leader.
“We knew there were places where South Asian students could socialize on campus. . . but none of them centered on mental health discussions,” Kamat said. “It was something that we felt was really important for South Asian students on campus who maybe faced different challenges in high school and in their transition to college.”
Since its inception, WE ARE SAATH NU has held one in-person event, a “Chai and Chat” event in October 2021. Going forward, Kamat said the organization plans to hold optional events scattered throughout the trimester. These include panel discussions, potential guest speakers, and a yoga event.
However, Singh said WE ARE SAATH’s efforts will not be limited to events. Singh is Co-Chair of Events and Outreach.
Another goal of the organization is to increase the number of South Asian therapists in counseling and psychology departments, according to Singh.
“We also hope to have advocacy for greater South Asian representation in mental health research at NU,” Singh said.
As a peer counsellor, Mukherjee said NU lacks mental health resources, especially for the South Asian community. She said it can be difficult for some students, especially given the already limited mental health awareness in the South Asian community.
Mukherjee said she and the co-founders of WE ARE SAATH Northwestern are members of the South Asian community who have had first-hand experience in the struggle to talk about mental health.
“There’s this stereotype that mental health issues should be thrown under the rug and you should just push through all the obstacles,” Mukherjee said. “It can be very trying for many people, so we wanted to disrupt that narrative.”
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