LWC Counseling Professor Receives Third Fulbright Award

Dr. Daya Singh Sandhu has devoted a good part of his research trying to lower the suicide rates in his native country of India, the “suicide capital of the world.” And Sandhu was recently selected to receive the 2017-18 Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award.

It’s the third Fulbright award for Sandhu, who is an LWC counseling professor and the college’s director of research. In November, Sandhu began a six-month fellowship to research suicide prevention and awareness at Punjabi University in Patiala, India.

“There is a need for an awakening about depression in India,” said Sandhu. “There is no suicide awareness in India. Secrecy and stigma are associated with mental health issues and depression.”

Sandhu used his first Fulbright award in 2002 to create awareness about suicide. His goal was to change the dialogue about behavior and emotional illness in India. When Sandhu returned in 2010 thanks to a second Fulbright award, his focus was on suicide prevention and he conducted a cross-cultural study for people from ages 19-24.

“This time I’ll be taking a more focused look at how two cultures and two nations view the problem of suicide in different ways,” he said. “There is a big difference in the way individuals cope with daily problems in Eastern and Western society.”

Sandhu said that although suicide is a world-wide problem, the reasons for committing suicide and the ways in which college students commit suicide are different across cultures and countries.

“Suicide is rising among college students,” said Sandhu. “There is intense pressure on academic achievement in India. And the values system is different. The focus is not on individual success but on improving the status of an entire family. Such pressures are often compounded by relationship problems or the lack of job opportunities.”

Sandhu’s interest in suicide awareness and prevention be- came “a professional mission” after two close friends lost sons to suicide.

“If you can save one person’s life or one parent from experiencing a tragedy like this, I think you have done something,” he said.

As part of his research, Sandhu has discovered an acute shortage of trained mental health professionals in India.

“Psychology is an established field in India but no one is practicing,” said Sandhu. “What I’m trying to do is introduce the topic of professional counseling as a discipline so the people can start practicing.”

In 2010, Sandhu worked with the Fulbright Commission, Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, India, and the United States-Indian Educational Foundation to found the Indian Association of Mental Health Counselors. He has also developed programs to train more mental health professionals and open counseling centers throughout India.

“India is the suicide capital of the world,” Sandhu said. “Depression seems to be everywhere and resources are limited. We have to change the way that people cope with their problems.”

Sandhu grew up in rural northwest India and is pioneer in multicultural counseling. He has published nearly two dozen books, more than 50 articles and provided editorial work to several professional journals. As LWC’s School of Professional Counseling Director of Research, he is responsible for guiding faculty research and working with graduate students in the college’s doctoral program. Sandhu holds six graduate degrees, including a doctor of counselor education.

Sandhu will chronicle his time and work in India, which will span from November 2017 to May 2018.