Earthquake Aggravates Haiti's Mental Health Crisis

Similar to many structures in Haiti, the Mars and Kline Psychiatric Center in Port-au-Prince, the country’s sole hospital for those with acute mental illness, was partly damaged in the Jan. 12 earthquake. The devastation was more serious for Défilé de Beudet in Croix-des-Bouquets, the only hospital for chronic mental disorders, which “shifted scores of patients to the grass outside,” according to The New York Times.

The newspaper reported that many Haitians suffered ”earthquake shock” following the disaster. This comes with a constant feeling that the earth remains shaking, causing the heart to race and bringing chest pain. Others experienced extreme stress and post-traumatic symptoms such as nightmares, memory lapses, sleep disturbances and loss of appetite, while some have developed psychosis, NYT added. 

“We’re in a crisis situation,” Franklin Normil, the acting director of Mars and Kline, told NYT. “Even before the earthquake, we did not get the resources to feed or clothe our patients properly. We had barely any staff, and these are patients who could be rehabilitated if we had the means.”

Foreign psychiatrists have their hands full, seeing patients, developing programs and training Haitian medical workers in various areas ranging from psychopharmacology to group relaxation approaches, according to NYT. The report noted that the Haitian Health Ministry was “eager for help” and “receptive” to recommendations of integrating mental health care into the primary health care system and making it accessible nationwide. 

About the author

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino is an associate editor for Devex and leads the company's news team in Manila. She played a critical role in conceptualizing the Development Newswire. Prior to joining Devex in 2004, she has already published articles and news briefs for Internet media organizations and for the Institute for Ethics and Economic Policy at Fordham University in New York. She earned her bachelor's in political science and master's in public affairs from the University of the Philippines. Eliza is a member of Mensa Philippines.

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