As mental health needs remain high among earthquake survivors, Humanity & Inclusion plans to expand its support to new communities.
Since the August 2021 earthquake in southwest Haiti, Humanity & Inclusion has been responding to the needs of impacted communities. In addition to its physical rehabilitation activities, logistics services and inclusion efforts, the team 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, a mental health and psychosocial support officer for Humanity & Inclusion in Haiti. “We see needs in individual care and in building resilience.”
Originally from Jacmel, in southeastern Haiti, Woodson joined Humanity & Inclusion in October to respond to the growing mental health needs in his own community after the earthquake. Alix, right, is pictured above with his MHPSS colleagues Wany Ducasse and Rosemonde Hilaire.
“I consider it my duty to myself, to my community and to HI to be a part of the mental health response,” Alix says.
“One woman in particular had an impact on me,” he continues. “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 facing socioeconomic challenges after the earthquake. Individuals frequently request financial support, because they cannot afford the transportation to access critical services.
Raising awareness on mental health
To help individuals, families and communities cope with the lingering psychological hardship caused by the earthquake, Humanity & Inclusion and its partners have implemented varied mental health services at two hospitals, one rehabilitation center and a mobile clinic. The organization has provided 218 individual MHPSS sessions and trained 45 health personnel in psychological first aid. Over 850 individuals have attended Humanity & Inclusion’s 13 MHPSS awareness sessions, and more than 160 people have already participated in 11 community support groups. Community activities included strategies for stress management and resilience, inclusion of people living with disabilities and raising awareness of available mental health resources.
“Implementing mental health activities has been one of the most difficult parts of our intervention. 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.”
—Woodson Alix, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Officer
Humanity & Inclusion 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 southern Haiti. As need remains high, the mental health services Humanity & Inclusion has already set in place in health facilities will continue to serve the surrounding communities.
Many of Humanity & Inclusion's disaster response efforts in Haiti are supported by USAID.