Global Mental Health - Images from the Field: Haiti
The colourful hills of Jalousie, overlooking Port-au-Prince, Haiti. This is the result of a
government project aiming to energize the shanty town and create a warmer welcome
to those from displacement camps post-earthquake. Port-au-Prince is the setting of
this two-year project funded by Grand Challenges Canada.
Dr. Martineau Guerrier, the co-Principal Investigator from the project partner site: the
Commission Nationale de Lutte contre la Drogue, shares his perspective on the
significance and potential impact of this project for the Haitian population with one of
many media outlets covering program activities throughout the week.
Gaining wide exposure through a press conference with newspapers, television and
radio stations at the opening day and throughout the week to showcase the learning
sessions on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and thought-provoking discussions
about mental health in Haiti.
Before the information session begins, a group of individuals from the Vodou sector
perform a special ceremony filled with drumming, song and dance to initiate the start
of program activities. As part of the ceremony, spirits were welcomed in all corners of
Community members from the Catholic sector in a moment of prayer and well wishes
before the learning session on cognitive behavioural therapy begins.
Dr. Christine Courbasson, psychologist and our CBT expert, provides one of many
learning sessions over the course of a week to build a foundation for discussion and
feedback. Each session focuses on the overall purpose of the therapy, some basics on
how it can be delivered and a cognitive distortions exercise to apply learning.
Vising the Lakou of Ati Max Beauvior, the Chief of Haitian Vodou; a family compound
intimately tied to Vodou practice and described as a place where spirits reside.
A round table discussion with Dr. Courbasson and the Ati Max Beauvoir’s community of
academics, ethnographers, Huongans (Vodou Priests) and Mambos (Vodou priestesses)
and others on the goals of the project and background information on CBT.
A mambo (Vodou priestess) sharing some common idioms of distress, thoughts on the
CBT therapy, and how it can be applied to her community members.
Dr. Girard, a leading Psychiatrist with the Mars and Kline Psychiatric Centre in Port-au-
Prince, and a key informant for the project, providing some key insights from the health
professional perspective on how CBT can be blended with spiritual practices.
In a room filled with spiritual offerings at a Vodou temple with Widner Dumay, Darati;
Guide Spirituel. Widner is a prominent Huongan (Vodou priest) and key informant for
A group of information session participants from the Vodou community continuing the
conversation about mental health over a typical Haitian lunch of fresh fish, fried
plantains and rice and beans.