Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mental Health in Haiti

The Haitian concept of life is essentially religious. Haitians tend to see the world as a vast spiritual arena. For them life is precious. They celebrate life and preserve it.

Here there is no room for a purely naturalistic or physical notion of illness. So doing psychology here is quite different than in the States. The challenge is to come to an integration that makes sense and takes into account the local belief systems.
It is important not to consider the traditional world view as pathological. As mental health practitioners we have to understand the Haitian belief system and be willing to explore individual thoughts, behaviors, and emotions concerning it.
In Haitian belief systems the religious or spiritual is always highlighted. However it is possible and essential to integrate our understanding of mental health with the original belief system in order that there is consonance between some aspect of the religious world view and the help being offered.

I am just beginning to understand this as we have opened our mental health clinic here in Jeremie. Lots of discernment as to how we can best serve the needs here, and not imposing an American view of psychology that feels very alien to people here.