Mental Health in Haiti
On January 12, 2010, large scale earthquake occurred, affecting the island of Hispaniola and most severely affecting the small country of Haiti. Five years after this catastrophe, many people in this country still suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues.

Earthquake Consequences on Mental Health in Haiti

As a result of the earthquake, over 90.5 percent of Haitians had relatives that either died or were seriously injured and 93 percent saw dead bodies. Moreover, 24.6 percent of the earthquake survivors developed PTSD symptoms and 28.3 percent developed major depressive disorder (MDD) symptoms. That accounts for more than half the population suffering from mental illness post-quake.

It is not surprising that so many people were traumatized by the event, as the quake left more than two million affected, 222,750 killed, 80,000 bodies missing, 188,383 houses destroyed or damaged and 1.5 million displaced. Before the earthquake, the mental health system in Haiti was almost non-existent mostly due to stigma.

Problems in Resolving the Issue

The good news is that the earthquake united Haitians to put some focus on mental health, still not nearly enough, but just enough to get the ball rolling. However, due to the overwhelming need for mental health services and very limited resources, most Haitians are not getting the psychiatric help they need. Now that mental health issues are more widespread, there is a stronger push for the government to invest more in training professionals and increase resources for mental health in Haiti.

One of the issues around Haitians not receiving mental health is religion. Mental health issues tend to be attributed to supernatural forces, where three out of four Haitians will see an herbalist or Vodou priests for treatment instead of seeking clinical services. This is due to both cultural beliefs and inadequate resources for mental health. Clinical practice in Haiti must include mental health treatment intersected with Vodou beliefs to effectively care for patients of the country.

Center for Addiction and Mental Health

Out of more than 90 agencies that offered outreach to Haiti, only three offered psychiatric care. Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Office of Transformative Global Health in Canada is one of those agencies. The organization collaborates with 40 religious healers of Haiti to provide cognitive behavioral therapy in an effective way that is in conjunction with cultural beliefs.

The adoption of task-shifting, or dedicating low-cost mental health workers such as community health workers (CHWs) who operate at the community and clinic levels to supplement integrated care, will help with efforts to decentralize mental health care. These improvements are being made in Haiti, however, there is still a long way to go. More investment in the health care system is needed to implement adequate mental health treatment for those still suffering from the trauma of the quake, and more generally, mental health treatment is needed for all.

In improving services for mental health in Haiti, poverty can also be reduced. Implementing adequate treatment can have far-reaching effects, as poor mental health is often the root cause of other health conditions, and it can inhibit people from participating in social and economic development.

Although not enough outreach to Haiti involved mental health services, mental health in Haiti is improving. Through the integration of community services between psychotherapy and religious or cultural practices, agencies like CAMH are facilitating change in the country. Reducing those inhibited by mental disorders also creates more contributors to the community and less burden placed on society due to mental disability. However, more funding is needing in the mental health practice to reduce illness and poverty.

– Anna Power

Photo: Google

Effects of the Indonesian EarthquakeOn August 5, 2018, in Loloan, Indonesia, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked the Indonesia archipelago. According to initial reports, the quake was more than nineteen miles deep. At least 91 people were killed, more than 200 were injured and countless more were missing. Thousands have been displaced, living in makeshift camps and temporary shelters. The effects of the Indonesian earthquake are extensive and will further hamper the nation’s ability to alleviate its problems relating to poverty.

A Brief History of Indonesia

Indonesia began working towards its independence in 1945 after the end of World War Two. However, its independence wasn’t formally recognized until 1949 (Indonesia had been a colony of the Netherlands). Later, in 1968, Indonesia experienced an internal revolution when a pro-United States government was established.

Indonesia’s economy was hit the hardest during the 1997 Asian market financial crisis. This was, in part, due to the extensiveness of Indonesia in foreign trade; Indonesia regularly traded (and continues to do so) with The United States, China, Japan, Australia, and Europe.

in recent years, Indonesia has made significant improvements in its economy and its battle with poverty, cutting its poverty level in half over the last twenty years. While this is impressive and should not be easily dismissed, it is not as positive as it sounds. In a country with over 250 million residents, about 28 million still live at or below the poverty line. Job creation, lack of basic services, and a high mortality rate for newborns still affect the largest economy in Southeast Asia.

Earthquake Response in 2004 and 2018

The 2004 earthquake and tsunami had a greater impact on Indonesian than all the Pacific nations affected by that horrific natural disaster. More than 200,000 Indonesians lost their lives. This cycle of natural disaster and devastation is not new to this area. But this time, the international response had been slightly improved.

The government, with the help of the Multi Donor Fund for Aceh and Nias (MDF), concentrated its efforts on rebuilding infrastructure in Indonesia, so the basic essential resources can be accessed. It also worked to repair or rebuild roads to hospitals and schools so they could continue in their duties of caring for and educating the populace.

Unfortunately, this 2018 earthquake will only slow the efforts made by Indonesia at eliminating its poverty-related problems. In order to lessen the effects of the Indonesian earthquake, The United States (along with its allies and other developed nations) should partner with international agencies and nongovernmental organizations in sending international aid and resources to Indonesia, specifically the areas where the earthquake had the highest impact.

The leading nations of our planet could help Indonesia recover from this terrible event, by investing in up-to-date infrastructure and detection equipment. The international community could also rebuild hospitals and schools with the most up-to-date technology, services and equipment.

History shows us that this is an earthquake-prone area of the South Pacific, and measures need to be taken immediately in order to limit the impact of the next natural disaster that impacts this area. The international community could use this unfortunate opportunity to help eradicate poverty in the Indonesian archipelago once and for all. Now is the time to act.

– Raymond Terry
Photo: Google