Mental Health Issues in Haiti


By Guerda Nicolas
CJ Contributor

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti has led to the development of several organizations created by Haitians for the purpose of addressing the mental health needs of Haitians in Haiti and abroad.  This report provides a summary of these organizations and their overall missions and objectives.

L’association Haïtienne de Psychologie (AHPsy) — Based in Haiti

The Haitian Association of Psychology (AHPsy) consists of more than 100 mental health professionals in Haiti as well as from the best universities in Europe and America, and about fifty students and postdoctoral students. Its objective is to promote and enhance the psychology and counseling professions in Haiti.  The overall goal of the organization is to train provide continual training to its members and conduct training and workshops on mental health throughout the country.

Since the earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, AHPsy started off partnering with other organizations to assist in addressing the mental health needs of individuals, given the limited expertise in providing effective traumatized treatments to the Haiti’s population.  In addition, the organization worked in partnership with other socio-professional organizations to establish a mental health policy in Haiti.

The AHPsy held its first congress at the end of June 2011, and document acts of this Congress are to appear in press at the start of October 2012. The organization maintains relations with sister associations in the Caribbean, of North and South America, and is currently participating in the creation of a new Caribbean Psychological Association.

Haitian Mental Health Network — Based in Boston

The Haitian Mental Health (HMH) Network is a Boston-based organization established in Feb. 2010 in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, to facilitate access to mental health services and respond to the psychosocial needs of the Haitian community.

The HMH Network is comprised of a group of mental health providers, including psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, psychiatric nurses, and pastoral counselors.  Members of the HMH Network work collaboratively with community-based agencies as well as local, national and international organizations to improve access for Haitian individuals to mental health services that are comprehensive, integrated, culturally sensitive, and developmentally appropriate. As a primarily volunteer-based organization, The HMH Network is dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness in the Haitian community, combating stigmas, and reducing the long-term psychological impact of trauma on the lives of Haitian individuals and families.

In the Boston area, the HMH Network offers an array of services, including the following:

  • Clinical consultation & training on the topics of culturally-oriented, trauma-informed mental health interventions with Haitians; Psychological First Aid; Disaster Mental Health; and Self-Care.
  • Conferences, community forums and other professional events.
  • School-based initiatives to provide mental health support and psycho-education to Haitian students on trauma, PTSD and other psychiatric illnesses.
  • Facilitation of consumers’ access to mental health and social services in the Haitian community.
  • A Directory of local Haitian Mental Health Providers.
  • Community-based research on the mental health needs of the Haitian community.

In Haiti, the work of the HMH Network has focused on the following:

  1. Providing trauma-informed training to health workers, community leaders, and students in Haiti on the mental health needs of vulnerable groups such as children, adolescents and the elderly.
  2. Working in collaboration with the Haitian Association of Psychology and the Faculty of Human Sciences at the State University of Haiti to enhance the workforce capacity of Haitian mental health workers to deliver quality mental health services to Haitian individuals and families.
  3. Facilitating knowledge exchange and knowledge transfer between providers in the United States and Haiti.

Rebati Sante Mentale

“Rebati Santé Mentale” Haiti is a non-profit organization dedicated to the overall goal of establishing an effective mental health capacity in Haiti, that is an integral part of Haiti’s health services, policy, and funding, and that provides evidence-based systems, delivery, and treatment strategies.

Rebati Santé Mentale” is the logical result of the Haitian Mental Health Summit that was convened at the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development on June 26-27, 2010. That summit itself resulted from the impetus and urgent necessity for an organized coalition of international mental health professionals to a) assess the preexisting and post disaster mental health situations of the population in Haiti and in the Haitian Diaspora; b) develop specific strategic goals and action plans for working collectively in addressing mental health needs of Haitians; and c) create a network of mental health professionals and stakeholders aimed at addressing behavioral health needs of Haitians.

The summit was attended by representatives from the Haitian American Psychiatric Association (HAPA), the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), New York University (NYU), the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center, the World Psychiatric Congress (WPC), the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the University of Miami School of Education and Human Development (Department of Educational and Psychological Studies), the Haitian Ministry of Health, Partners in Health, the Black Psychiatrists of America (BPA), the American Association of Black Psychologists, and several Haitian mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers) practicing in New York, Boston, Miami, Chicago, Canada, and Haiti.

Prior to “Rebati Santé Mentale,” charges of carrying out the recommendations of the Summit were delegated initially to a task force of 25 members.

Two face-to-face meetings (October 2010 and February 2011), again at the University of Miami, School of Education and Human Development, in addition to several teleconference calls, allowed the task force to discuss and begin implementation of the Summit recommendations.

“Rebati Santé Mentale” was conceived as one professional and legal way to proceed with the tasks at hand.

Dr Guerda Nicolas is the chair and associate professor in the University of Miami’s Department of Educational and Psychological Studies. This is her first in a series of columns looking at mental health issues in Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora.


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