Psychological-Trauma Training Culturally Sensitive to Quake Survivors

Haiti's 7.0 magnitude earthquake, which jolted the country in 2010, left a trail of devastation. Thousands were killed by caved-in structures, and thousands more, maimed and bleeding, lay in the streets. Disaster-aid organizations like Doctors Without Borders performed emergency surgeries. Many hundreds of Haitians in Port-au-Prince fled, escaping images of destruction that were everywhere.


Of those who stayed, they lived in tent communities on the streets, dependent on international aid for food, water, and clothing. But immediate needs for medical attention were not all they had to contend with. The trauma of the earthquake's terrifying power, and its panic-producing aftershocks overwhelmed survivors' psyches and their ability to cope. The psychic damage commonly associated with the Haiti earthquake is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

To address the mental / emotional issues stemming from the earthquake, the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies launched a 12-month project to teach Haiti's care-giving profession how to recognize and manage PTSD. Haiti's Ministry of Health and other state and local health organizations gathered in Cap-Haitien for a six-month intensive. Classes, taught in Créole, were designed to be culturally sensitive to beliefs Haitians hold about mental-health conditions. Because they often ascribe mystifying symptoms to the work of the devil. The course graduated 113 health providers certified in PTSD causes, symptoms, medication, and management techniques.

Feed-back from health professionals was enthusiastic. They reported the culturally- sensitive approach not only benefited survivors they treated, but also its positive effects on their own family lives.

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Read more: Mental Illness, Mental Health, Mental Health Tips, Trauma, Health

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