The catastrophes which have hit Haiti only underscore 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.
Haitian Connection’s Multi-Purpose Center
The center is located in downtown Jeremie. It serves as the office for Haitian Connection as well as a meeting place for our various projects and activities. It also houses a small gift shop. In partnership with Partners in Parenting Haiti (PIPH) it serves as a tutoring center for kids in the PIPH program who have some difficulties at school. Every last Saturday of the month we hold our Child-to-Child activities there. It also provides space for psychological counseling, group as well as individual counseling. Through PIPH we are able to employ 4 teachers, and Haitian Connection is employing one part time maintenance person.
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
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
- Child-to-Child training for teachers representing eight different schools in the greater Jeremie area.
In addition to developing a mental health knowledge base, the training emphasized the practice of active non-judgmental listening and 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 will visit these groups and assure carry-through of noted commitments.
The training concluded with anonymous evaluations that included these comments:
- “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.”
- “It 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; also, I 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 flyer miles or know others who might be interested, please contact Renate Schneider at email@example.com.