Culture and Mental Health in Haiti: A Literature Review

To avoid faux pas, harm or simply ineffective programming, we recommend this paper as essential reading for any non-Haitian working on mental health and psychosocial support after the earthquake.

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.

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