Growing up in Cote D’Ivoire, West Africa, shaped Dr Sahar Bhaloo’s perceptions, as well as drove her to become a “Psychologist for Social Change”.
An inspiring childhood moulded around social justice and impact-focused work for social change, helped Dr Bhaloo see the need for each of us need to play a part in the mental health struggle. In addition to this unique perspective, her family instilled values of service and equal access to care for all people. This ignited her desire to work in the emerging field of Global Mental Health, especially with marginalised populations.
Dr Bhaloo is a Clinical Psychologist, focusing on adjustment change, transition and trauma that present as continuing issues in the area of Global Mental Health. She received her Doctorate and Masters in Psychology from the US and her practice has always been focused on social justice and removing barriers to treatment. In recent years, under this social justice umbrella, Dr Bhaloo has worked with refugees, asylum seekers and torture survivors. Additionally, she saw the need to focus her work on gender-based violence against women, trafficking victims and survivors of female genital mutilation.
Inspired by the long line of feisty, independent and motivated women in her life, it is there that Dr Bhaloo gained her strength to forge ahead into unchartered and taboo territories.
One may ask what is a “Psychologist for Social Change”? It is a doctor who assesses the greatest need based on the country where they are residing. Currently, Dr Bhaloo is tackling many important mental health areas in India. She is forging ahead in an unchartered territory, where mental illnesses and addressing legitimate psychological issues have been seen as taboo and swept under the carpet. Generations of Indians have ignored the need to address such glaring issues. Dr Bhaloo has come at a time when India is ripe for change in the mental health arena. Currently, she is targeting the below areas:
1) Spark a meaningful Mental Health Dialogue:
There is a looming mental health crisis in India. The fervent denial of the existence of mental health issues has resulted in the numbers of individuals suffering in voiceless pain, bound by stigma, multiplying. The concept of mental health still needs a lot of development, people want to know more; they want to know what the real issues are that impact them, when to seek additional support and where they can go to seek good quality therapy. One of the ways Dr. Bhaloo is hoping to spark meaningful dialogue around mental health in India is through her blog, “Sense and Sensibility with Dr. Bhaloo,” and writing for various forward thinking publications to reach a cross-section of different groups.
2) Provide support to individuals and families looking for therapy to help them through a difficult time:
Dr Bhaloo works with English speaking individuals in India who are ready for a change in their lives. She provides support and guidance to make those changes effectively and efficiently. She consults face to face here in Mumbai with individuals and couples who are struggling with a variety of issues. In addition, she has innovatively introduced Skype sessions, allowing her access to not be restricted to only the city limits. For more information email her at [email protected] for a consultation.
3) Capacity development:
In new and existing programs around mental health systems to help build and support India’s budding mental health infrastructure. For example, Dr Bhaloo is working on fortifying support for rehabilitation of Child Sex Trafficking survivors in Purnia, Bihar with ‘Free the Slaves’. Before that, she was involved in a mind and body expansion project with Mera Doctor in the area of Telemedicine. In addition, she works on multiple projects targeting the local issue of violence against women and children.
In a world like that where everyone understands that this is a shared burden that will affect each one of us in our lifetime, that is a world in which we have a chance at combating this mental illness epidemic we are currently facing.
The largest challenge has been stigma. The stigma around work with mental health has been a barrier everywhere in the world Dr Bhaloo has worked: Africa, Asia, and North America. The fear of being associated with ‘mental illness’ impedes any work on improving mental health. The fear of stigma by association and the shame of feeling helpless in the face of such pain keeps people from making choices to speak on mental health issues. A close second to the challenge of stigma is misinformation and superstition about wellness and mental health issues. Through her writing Dr Bhaloo hopes to disseminate accurate information and dispel falsities.
Inspired by the long line of feisty, independent and motivated women in her life, it is there that Dr Bhaloo gained her strength to forge ahead into unchartered and taboo territories. Her mother is her biggest inspiration; she has a remarkable ability to take the world in stride with such grace, determination and strength, making everyone who interacts with her feel comfortable and safe. This is a woman who started her 4th career in her 50’s and hasn’t looked back!
There is so much to be done in the field of Global Mental Health around the world. Dr Bhaloo is working towards creating a place where shame and fear don’t keep us from supporting each other in our greatest needs. Where help is supported and preventative care is encouraged. In a world like that where everyone understands that this is a shared burden that will affect each one of us in our lifetime, that is a world in which we have a chance at combating this mental illness epidemic we are currently facing.
About Dr. Sahar Bhaloo
Dr. Sahar Bhaloo, is a Clinical Psychologist specialising in Global Mental Health in traumatized and underserved populations; immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, trafficking victims and survivors of torture and gender-based violence. She has served as a consultant in post war Sri Lanka with internally displaced survivors of the civil war and in India with tele-mental health in rural populations. Dr. Bhaloo has also collaborated on the creation of a manualised training for local clinicians treating post war trauma in Rwanda and on a para-professional community health worker training manual for work with mental health medical clinic establishment and development initiative for the treatment of gender-based violence crimes in Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo. She also has a research background in the study of immigrant Acculturation, Acculturative Stress and Stigma. Dr. Bhaloo spent the first 18 years of her life in Cote D’Ivoire West Africa before moving to Canada and then the US to complete her graduate and post-graduate degrees in clinical psychology. Dr. Bhaloo currently lives in India working on gender-based violence and stigma reduction, increasing knowledge around mental health issues and removing barriers to accessing mental health care.
Email: [email protected]
LinkedIn: Dr. Sahar Bhaloo