As Puni Kalra, Neera Nijhawan Puri, PhD, and Arpana Inman, PhD, walked the streets of San Francisco following APA's 2001 Annual Convention, the three women talked about a dream-connecting the growing number of people interested in South Asian psychology with a forum for constant communication worldwide. As founders, they brought that idea to fruition in 2001, in the form of the South Asian Psychological Networking Association (SAPNA). SAPNA-which in Hindi means "dream"-hosts a listserv, sponsors a Web site and holds a banquet in conjunction with APA's Annual Convention.
Currently, the listserv-a discussion group conducted through e-mail-functions as the association's communication hub, says Inman, an assistant psychology professor at Lehigh University. Every week, SAPNA members across the globe, from North America to India to New Zealand, use the listserv to discuss research, post articles, comment on current events, recruit research subjects and match up students to mentors, says Puri, a psychologist and life coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
About 300 people belong to the listserv and participate in the discussions, Puri says.
SAPNA membership is open to anyone interested in psychology related to the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, Inman says.
"The response has just been amazing. It's a place for us to share thoughts and connect with each other," she says.
Working with fellow co-founder Nita Tewari, PhD, the group obtained a $4,000 grant from APA's Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs and launched its Web site in early 2005.
Demand for an association to address the psychological concerns of people from South Asia, and serve as a forum for South Asian mental health professionals, had been building for years as South Asians grew as a minority within the United States, Inman says. Indeed, the U.S. population of people emigrating from South Asia, or whose parents came from South Asia, significantly increased in the past 40 years. The 1960 Census listed about 14,000 people living in the United States as born in India and Pakistan. By the 2000 census, that number rose to more than 1.2 million.
These immigrants and their children frequently confront psychological issues created by living in a culture with different values, says Puri. Those issues include parental expectations about educational success, suitable careers, dating and marriage-values that often conflict with what children learn from the surrounding culture, Puri said.
"We have a lot of work to do, we have a group of people who have some real challenges with immigrant acculturative stress," she says.