Just a few weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, the citizens of Haiti are facing much more devastation from an earthquake that claimed the lives of nearly 1,300 individuals, seriously injured at least 5,700 people and left thousands more displaced due to total destruction of their homes or other serious damage, as of Monday, August 16th. As anticipated, yet another major storm, Tropical Storm Grace, hit the Caribbean nation later on Monday, increasing the numbers of deaths to nearly 2,000 and injured to 7,000 and causing more trauma before Haitians had a chance to begin coping with impact of the earthquake.
Meanwhile, Haiti is still striving to recover from an earthquake that occurred in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The nation also continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic, poverty, drugs and gangs.
"These dire circumstances undoubtedly have and will continue to have profound, long-lasting impacts on the mental health of individuals throughout Haiti. Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders, as well as substance use, are likely to not only develop, but also worsen as Haiti has a severe shortage of mental healthcare and addiction treatment providers," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and CEO of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.
"The shock of unpredictable disasters and their devastating consequences often lead to the development of post-traumatic stress disorder and a lack of hope resulting from the loss of parents, other loved ones, homes, jobs and other aspects of stability that survivors had prior to these horrific events," Dr. Wentz said.
"As we have seen with other natural crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as man-made disasters, such as 9/11, the full continuum of behavioral healthcare services must always be available for everyone. There are both immediate and lingering impacts on individuals' mental health, which could include substance use, that need to be identified and addressed as soon as possible. The earlier treatment can begin, the more significantly risk can be reduced of these disorders becoming severe and potentially leading to death by suicide or overdoses," Dr. Wentz emphasized.
"NJAMHAA exhorts disaster recovery specialists, mental healthcare and substance use treatment counselors, and other healthcare providers to provide any support they can to Haiti through an international relief effort. Tragedies such as the earthquake affect everyone in our global community, and it is imperative to help each other in such difficult times, especially where healthcare resources are so terribly lacking," Dr. Wentz stated.