The World Health Organization has recently made available a literature review on “Culture and mental health in Haiti” on the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Network. The review was commissioned by the WHO to provide some background information for non-Haitians “working on mental health and psychosocial support after the earthquake,” and was written by a team assembled by Laurence J. Kirmayer and the Culture and Mental Health Unit at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital. Here’s the abstract:
This paper reviews and summarizes the available literature on Haitian mental health and mental health services. This review was conducted in light of the Haitian earthquake in January 2010. We searched Medline, Google Scholar and other available databases to gather scholarly literature relevant to mental health in Haiti. This was supplemented by consultation of key books and grey literature relevant to Haiti. The first part of the review describes historical, economic, sociological and anthropological factors essential to a basic understanding of Haiti and its people. This includes discussion of demography, family structure, Haitian economics and religion. The second part of the review focuses on mental health and mental health services. This includes a review of factors such as basic epidemiology of mental illness, common beliefs about mental illness, explanatory models, idioms of distress, help-seeking behavior, configuration of mental health services and the relationship between religion and mental health.
A number of people who took part in researching and writing the report, including physician Frantz Raphaël and mental health researcher Yves Lecomte, have also developed an excellent web-resource called “Mental Health and Haitian Communities,” which includes extensive audiovisual and documentary materials (primarily in French) on mental health, human rights, ethnopsychiatry and other related issues.