UNT Social Work professor receives India Venture Fund award for students to study mental health practices in Mumbai

The research will be used to determine best practices for a country with unregulated mental health services.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Students in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) will travel to India this summer with Dr. Dhru Mukherjee, associate professor of social work for the Joint Masters of Social Work Program, to study the country’s delivery of mental health services. The project is sponsored by UNT International’s India Venture Fund 2019.

“Dr. Mukherjee’s project is an exciting initiative for UNT,” said Dr. Pia Wood, vice provost and dean for International Affairs. “In addition to advancing the university’s global partnerships with India, the project provides UNT students with a unique opportunity to enhance their global perspectives through a research experience abroad.”

Students will spend a week in Mumbai conducting fieldwork and directly engaging with focus groups of mental health professionals. The students will observe therapists’ practices and collect data that will inform their theses to make recommendations on best practices tailored to India.

“In India, there is no standardized mechanism for accountability when it comes to mental health services,” said Dr. Mukherjee. “There is a high demand for therapy, but all you need to practice is a degree – whether it’s in social work, psychology, an online degree, any degree – but there is no licensing. There is no supervision. We want to explore these practices and determine their feasibility.”

Dr. Mukherjee would like to use these findings to apply for a Fulbright in hopes of getting other forms of research funding to solidify best practices to help standardize mental health care in India. But, he says India isn’t the only country that lacks accountability for mental health professionals.

“This is a good investment on the part of UNT as there are opportunities all over the world to research how standardized mechanisms for accountability vary across countries,” Dr. Mukherjee said. “Once we finalize this project, I plan to work to expand this research to the UK.”

 Dean Neale Chumbler says this is just one example of the far-reaching impact of research in HPS.

“We are a student-centered college dedicated to making a difference not just regionally, but globally,” Dr. Chumbler said. “It is imperative that our students have opportunities to study abroad so that they can make an impact in the places they’re needed most. With this project, they truly have the chance to help reshape unregulated mental health systems and recommend best practices in an area of health care where there is a critical need.”