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Emergency Mental health: Supporting earthquake survivors


Emergency | Health | Haiti | PUBLISHED ON January 27th 2022
Three of HI’s mental health and psychosocial professionals in Haiti. (From left to right), Wany Ducasse, Rosemonde Hilaire and Woodson Alix

Three of HI’s mental health and psychosocial professionals in Haiti. (From left to right), Wany Ducasse, Rosemonde Hilaire and Woodson Alix | © HI

As mental health needs remain high among earthquake survivors, HI plans to expand its support to new communities.

Ongoing Mental Health Needs

Since the 2021 earthquake hit the southwest regions of Haiti, HI has been responding to the needs of the impacted communities. Alongside its physical rehabilitation activities, logistics services and inclusion efforts, HI has launched mental health and psychosocial services (MHPSS) to support those most affected by the emergency.

“The earthquake has brought distress, mourning and profound changes in families and communities,” explains Woodson Alix, HI Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Officer in Haiti. “We see needs in individual care and in building resilience.”

Originally from Jacmel, in the South East department of Haiti, Woodson joined HI in October to respond to the growing mental health needs in his own community after the earthquake.

Devastating impacts

 “I consider it my duty to myself, to my community and to HI to be a part of the mental health response,” Woodson says.

 “One woman in particular had an impact on me. She lost two children in the earthquake, and had a leg amputated after her injuries. I accompanied her personally for psychosocial support. A few weeks later, she wanted to start a local organization to accompany people with disabilities and help children in difficulty. She wants to name it after her two children.”

Beyond the distress caused by loss and devastation, many are also struggling with the socioeconomic impact of the earthquake. Individuals frequently request financial support, because they cannot afford the transportation to important services.

HI’s Emergency Intervention

To help individuals, families and communities cope with the lingering psychological hardship caused by the earthquake, HI has implemented varied mental health services in health facilities1 and in a mobile clinic alongside local partners. The organization has provided 218 individual MHPSS sessions and trained 45 health personnel in Psychological First Aid2. Over 850 individuals have attended HI’s 13 MHPSS awareness sessions, and over 160 have participated in 11 community support groups thus far3. Community activities included strategies for stress management and resilience, inclusion of people living with disability and raising awareness of available mental health resources.

“Implementing Mental Health activities has been one of the most difficult parts of our intervention,” Woodson explains. “People don’t always recognize how important it is, but it is still relevant and necessary. One of our greatest successes has been in raising awareness about how important mental health is.”  

More to Come

In the coming weeks of the emergency intervention, HI plans to launch new sensibility sessions in schools, where important needs have been identified, and expand its mental health and psychosocial support services to the city of Aquin, in the South of Haiti. As need remains high, the mental health services HI has already set in place in hospitals and health centers will continue to serve the surrounding communities.

1 Hôpital Immaculé Conception (HIC), Fondation Tous Ensemble (FONTEN), St Anne Hôpital

2 Data from January 19, 2022

3 Data from January 14, 2022

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