December 20, 2018

A Mind on a Mission

December 20, 2018

Dr. Skultip (Jill) Sirikantraporn is a founding faculty of Fulbright University Vietnam. She used to be a licensed clinical psychologist in California and New York with research interests in trauma, resilience, and positive psychology in the context of cross-cultural and international psychology. Fulbright focuses on her story at our campus:

Her smile pierced the thickest of souls. Her laugh sang like a melody. In the child’s presence, Dr. Skultip Sirikantraporn (Jill Siri) could not help but be seduced.

As part of her university studies in Bangkok, Thailand, Dr. Siri decided to work with sex workers and their children. That course altered her trajectory, inspiring her to work in clinical psychology.

“I saw these families’ incredible amount of resilience and hope they displayed despite the accumulated stress and discrimination they faced,” she said. “It planted a strong seed in me that grew into my own personal and career development.”

She then worked in various mental health settings: a nursing home where she designed treatment to foster holistic healing, inpatient psychiatric hospitals where she served people with severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders, and an outpatient counseling center where she worked with Asian Pacific Island clients.

Now at Fulbright University Vietnam, Dr. Siri is leveraging her experience in clinical psychology to lead the university’s Wellness Center. With her research on trauma and resilience across cultures, she is shaping the university’s approach to ensure mental health is a pillar of student development.

“Most of the time wellness, especially mental wellness, is something thought about later in university settings, and it takes a lot of work to integrate it,” Dr. Siri said. “Academic success cannot be taken out of mental and psychological growth. We at Fulbright are in a leading position in that we are incorporating mental wellness as a major element of who we are as a university from the get-go.”

The Wellness Task Force comprises faculty, staff, and members of Safe Haven, the student psychology club.

“Everyone on the team is motivated purely by their desire to support our students. Their dedication for student wellbeing motivates me and inspires many of our efforts,” she said.

Based on the Task Force’s feedback on existing needs, Dr. Siri has provided Mental Health First Aid training to Student Life staff, Residential Advisors, and Peer Mentors with plans to expand this training to the entire Fulbright community.

Going forward, Dr. Siri envisions Fulbright’s Wellness Center playing a pivotal role in creating a campus culture that supports psychological growth. Initially, it will design and execute prevention, intervention, and crisis management activities for Fulbright’s community. In time, the center will partner with grassroots and non-profit organizations to serve the larger community.

Dr. Siri has already started gathering insights from local psychiatrists, psychologists, and students in Vietnam to ground the center in the Vietnamese context. She stressed the importance of the center operating as a research hub that works with local resources and existing knowledge.

“Most of the existing theories in clinical psychology were developed in the West,” she said. “It is important to understand those theories, but we should not assume that we can or should adopt their methodologies to Vietnam.”

She outlined two emerging themes from her initial conversations in the medical community. First, the mental health profession in Vietnam is in a nascent stage with needs regarding licensing standards, increasing access to mental health services, and educating the public to destigmatize mental illness. Second, the profession needs to strategize for its own expansion and change.

“With Vietnam’s rapid development, strong mental health and wellness policies will be essential to enable people to fully participate in the socioeconomic development of the country,” she said. “At Fulbright, I am energized by the idea that we can support practices and research that aid Vietnam’s psychological and emotional growth alongside its economic growth.”

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