This summer, Sanju Koirala ’19 is conducting research on creative writing as a tool for psychological healing in Nepal with literature and creative writing professor Jane Springer. Her research is funded by an Emerson summer research grant.
Koirala was drawn to this subject based on her experiences in Nepal, where she grew up. There, she explains, “I have seen mentally ill people stigmatized on the streets without proper care or support. I always wanted to do something for them.”
While many focused on the physical damage in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal last year, Koirala recognized that more than just physical healing was needed—the nation required psychological healing, too. Her passion for writing and belief in the healing power of words serve as a foundation for her current research project.
Specifically, Koirala is looking how the earthquake has impacted the current psychological health condition in Nepal and is discovering what has been done so far in this pursuit and what further resources are necessary. She also will hold creative writing workshops with school-aged children in the site affected by the earthquake.
To do this, Koirala is visiting different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working on the field of mental health in Nepal and interviewing psychologists to take notes on the counseling process and on possible hindrances they have faced.
Over the course of her research, Koirala has so far found that the condition of mental health in Nepal is indeed very poor and remarked on the cultural differences of mental health treatment between the U.S. and Nepal. “In Nepal, instead of people approaching the psychologists, psychologists themselves have to approach people,” she noted. “However, even with the minimum resources, there is less effect of earthquake on the mental health of people than what was expected. Many believe this is because of the close-knit communities and culture of the people,” Koirala said.
Beyond these discoveries, she hopes “to sketch the unseen need of psychological health” in Nepal, see the cultural variations in treatments and inspire children to write. “I believe this can be an effective way of dealing with trauma.”
For Koirala, this research serves as both a basis for her aspiration to promote mental health in countries like Nepal and as a humanitarian effort to make a difference after the earthquake. “I could not make up for the loss that was made,” she remarked. “I could not build a new house for them nor bring back a loved one. Yet, I am glad that at least I can help someone heal with the help of what I know, to write.”