Healing trauma after Haiti’s earthquake
23 December 2011
Some were trapped in rubble for hours. Other lost loved ones. Thousands saw their homes destroyed. For survivors of Haiti's 2010 earthquake, grief and pain became constant companions. As Caritas raced to get families water, food, and shelter, its aid workers realized that mental health care was just as great a need.
CORDAID mental health capacity building session.
“More than a year after the January 2010 earthquake, many Haitians still found it hard to enter buildings,” says Boris Budosan, Mental Health Advisor for Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands). In some cases, experiencing the terrifying earthquake led to more serious conditions such as severe depression and even psychoses. Stress and anxiety were widespread, sometimes leading to violence and drug or alcohol problems.
In Haiti, there is little specialized care available to help people vulnerable to mental health problems. Cordaid, which has worked in Haiti for years, stepped into the gap. It developed programmes that help both children and adults cope with the earthquake’s psychological aftershocks and improve the survivors’ emotional wellbeing.
Cordaid brought in psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to train hundreds of community-level workers, along with primary healthcare staff, in how to help people in distress. It also worked to establish a referral system between targeted communities and primary healthcare systems. It held community mobilization and awareness-raising sessions so survivors would know the signs of severe anxiety and depression--and know where to go for help.
By November 2011, more than 95,000 people had participated in programmes to heal trauma and reduce stress. . “For survivors facing cumulative stress, we hope to stop a ‘second wave’ of psychiatric problems ,” says Budosan. “We want people to regain and strengthen their resilience.”
RESOURCESAnnual Report 2011Emergency GuidelinesEmergency Response Tool KitEmergency Appeals 2012Emergency Appeals 2011Emergency Appeals 2010Emergencies on Caritas BlogBridging the Gap between Policy and Practice