Mental Health Program in Jeremie

The catastrophe which hit Haiti only underscores the need for trained mental health counselors on the ground as people resettle, tally their losses and adjust to a new and likely much more difficult reality. Psychological relief aid cannot be done in the same way as other disaster relief. It requires a consistent and long-term presence on the ground. As a result we have added an additional and urgent objective: the training of local people in trauma and grief intervention. The immigration from Port-au-Prince back to the rural areas also brings back the need for mental health services. It is imperative that a resource base be established in these rural areas as soon as possible.

Our objectives are:

  • Mental health training in psychological first aid
  • Mental health training in depression, anxiety and substance abuse
  • Development of a cadre of community mental health workers located in Jeremie, Dekade, and Gatineau
  • Development of a mobile group of community mental health workers who can travel in to the more remote mountain regions
  • Development and evaluation of culturally appropriate mental health assessment tools
  • Development and evaluation of culturally appropriate mental health intervention strategies
  • Specific focus on children and trauma

July Update:

In July a team of mental health specialists travelled to Jeremie Haiti to conduct a mental health training with the goal to sow the seeds for a mental health approach which would be truly Haitian in nature. The training consisted of two major components: general mental health training for members representing six different community groups, and a Child-to-Child training for teachers representing eight different schools in the greater Jeremie area. In addition to developing a mental health knowledge base for the participants of the training much emphasis was put on the practice of active non-judgmental listening as well as on the practice of a number of relaxation techniques. each of the six groups from the greater Jeremie area committed themselves to a mental health literacy campaign within their own communities. A general coordinator has been chosen who will visit these groups and assure carry through of noted commitments.

The training concluded with evaluations, submitted anonymously, and some quotes from those comments follow: "My experience of listening showed me that it is not when you give advice only that you help others, but when you listen to others you give them encouragement, and that made me want to be more attentive to what others are saying" "When we played a game at the beginning of the seminar that gave everybody energy and helped us to leave our worries behind" "t was the first time I received a message from somebody else, and it made me feel good" "We found tools for mental health first aid" "I learned how to help someone with mental health problems and how to help myself alsoI learned listening and respect" "I congratulate the facilitators for the excellent methodology they used. I would like for this seminar to be held in other places, because it is good for Haiti, it provides the tools that we can use as resources"

We are currently looking for funding of this project. If you are able to assist us financially, or by giving us frequent flyers miles of know others who might be interested, please contact Renate Schneider at haitianconnection@gmail.com

Child to Child Project

In order to address the special needs of children, we have added a program that is especially geared towards them. Child-to-Child is an award-winning program designed to promote child health and safety through children (http://www.child-to-child.org/). It began in 1979, which was the International Year of the Child, and has spread to over 70 countries worldwide. In 1993, it won the highest award given by UNICEF in recognition of what the program has accomplished to empower children, celebrate their role in development, and promote child health. The program is based on a firm and unwavering belief in the ability of children to affect change. In Child-to-Child, children learn to promote health to other children, their families, and the community.

Child-to-Child methodology has been adapted to help children assist other children to cope with traumatic situations. A CtC publication on children affected by natural disasters outlines specific activities that children can do to help other children, including engaging younger children in games, songs, storytelling, and dancing. Children are encouraged to create songs or skits with simple health messages that recognize the need for both mental and physical well-being. Through Child-to-Child activities, children feel empowered and confident that they can play a part in helping their families and communities recover from disasters and rebuild their lives. The methodology celebrates children's remarkable resilience when coping with disaster and trauma.

The Jeremie Child-to-Child program will initially train about 25 teachers and community leaders in the program methodology.

July Update:

The Child-to-Child training had 24 teacher participants representing eight different schools, and 20 children participated each afternoon. While the teachers and/or program leaders learn the methodology, it is the children who identify issues or problems in their communities. Once all these problems are laid out on the floor, it is the children who then rate them as to their seriousness or importance for their communities. In this way children are empowered to become agents of change. The themes chosen for the training in Jeremie ranged from diarrhea, smoking, children with disabilities, and disastrous events. Each of the participating teachers committed to bring the program to their schools. A general coordinator has been appointed who will visit the schools once every two months to see how the training is implemented.

This training also concluded with evaluations, submitted anonymously, and some quotes from those comments follow: "I learned that children are very important" "A lot of important things can be done without a lot of money" "I discovered that games are good and very instructive" "The facilitator used a lot of real life examples and helped me understand" "I learned that children can intervene by themselves and they can work well and they can learn" "I would like for the seminar to take roots all over Haiti".

We would like to extend a great debt of gratitude to our sponsors and a heartfelt thank you. Without this funding the program would not have been possible. A grant from the National Council of Mental Health Catholic Theological Union - Soccer Tournament Partners in Progress University of West Georgia Student Fundraiser Grant from the University of West Georgia STAND (Amnesty group UWG)