WE ARE SAATH Northwestern focuses on mental health in the South Asian community


Photo courtesy of Aru Singh

In many South Asian languages, “we are saath” translates to “we are together.”

Pavan Acharya, Reporter

During summer 2020, then-executive director of WE ARE SAATH Feinberg second-year Rohan Chalasani (Weinberg ’20) approached five undergraduate Northwestern students asking if they were interested in creating an NU chapter of the national organization.

After talking to Chalasani, they agreed.

WE ARE SAATH is a national organization with a mission to increase mental health resources for members of the South Asian community. The organization has networks at universities throughout the country, including a new branch at NU. In many South Asian languages, “we are saath” translates to “we are together.”

“We knew that we wanted to create a space on campus that was catered towards the South Asian experience and its intersection with mental health and pressure, academic pressure, any type of pressure like that,” said Weinberg junior Shreya Mukherjee, co-founder of the NU chapter.

WE ARE SAATH NU was founded by Mukherjee, Weinberg sophomore Rishi Jain, McCormick sophomore Aru Singh, Weinberg sophomore Rhea Sharma and Weinberg sophomore Preeta Kamat, the chapter lead. 

“We knew that there are places for South Asian students to socialize on campus . . . but none of them centered around mental health discussions,” Kamat said. “That was something that we felt was really important for South Asian students on campus that maybe faced different challenges in high school and in their transition to college.” 

Since its inception, WE ARE SAATH NU has had one in-person event, a “Chai and Chat” event in October 2021. Moving forward, Kamat said the organization plans to hold scattered optional events throughout the quarter. These include roundtable discussions, potential guest speakers and a yoga event.

However, Singh said WE ARE SAATH’s efforts will not be limited to events. Singh serves as the co-chair of events and outreach.

Increasing the number of South Asian therapists at Counseling and Psychological Services is another organization goal, according to Singh. 

“We’re also hoping to have some advocacy involved in terms of having more South Asian representation in mental health research at NU,” Singh said.

As a peer adviser, Mukherjee said NU lacks in mental health resources, particularly for the South Asian community. She said this can be challenging for some students, especially given already-limited mental health awareness in the South Asian community.

Mukherjee said herself and the co-founders of WE ARE SAATH Northwestern are members of the South Asian community who had first hand experience in struggling to talk about mental health.

“There’s that stereotype that mental health concerns should be thrown under the rug and you should just push forward through all obstacles,” Mukherjee said. “That can be very taxing for a lot of individuals, so we wanted to disrupt that narrative.”

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