Luchando contra el COVID-19: Supporting the mental health of Venezuelan migrants in Trinidad and Tobago

Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor is the Immediate Past President of the Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP), Director at the MNC Psychological Testing and Counselling Centre and an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Education Programmes at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. The TTAP is the professional association representing psychologists in Trinidad and Tobago. In this post, Dr Nakhid-Chatoor shares TTAP’s activities to support Venezuelan migrants during the pandemic. 

Key messages Innovations
Sharing information in appropriate languages is crucial for reaching migrant populations Videos in Spanish on coping with stress and protecting vulnerable groups
Many older adults call the helpline every day to check in                                                Toll-free helpline available to everyone 27/7                                           
Recognise the things that are within your control and those that are not Online counselling sessions, WhatsApp video, audio and text messaging and emails to provide remote services

The COVID-19 pandemic has a major impact on the mental health of the migrant population in Trinidad and Tobago and those travelling from the neighbouring country of Venezuela. People come from Venezuela searching for a better quality of life, leaving loved ones behind. They and other migrants experience the xenophobia of some Trinidadians. ​

Before the pandemic, jobs were difficult to get and many migrants hid in fear of being discovered by the local authorities. Presently, many have lost their jobs and are in dire financial difficulties as non-essential businesses have closed their doors, such as restaurants, hotels and stores. People are in survival mode, depending on kind benefactors, such as churches and neighbours for food and basic necessities.

To highlight the fact that they are in need of psychosocial support, and to offer information and coping strategies in their native language, TTAP created a video in Spanish. The video normalises mental health reactions to the pandemic, explains the importance of physical distancing and offers advice for coping with stress for first-responders, children and teenagers, people with disabilities and people with addictions. 

 

In addition to the video we have organised a hotline managed by 18 psychologists, two of whom speak Spanish. This is a free counselling service available 24 hours every day and open to the entire population.  People have been pleased with the service so far: 

I could never have afforded this before, even when I wanted to talk to someone about what has been happening with me.

There have been many repeat callers, especially among adults over 65 years-old whose children live apart or abroad. They may call the Hotline every day to check in with us and let us know that they are doing the breathing exercises, eating better or feeling less fearful.

We are also providing psychological services remotely via telephone, WhatsApp video and audio, email and video conferencing. Every week our team meets on Zoom and discusses innovative ways of improving this service. We also provide daily updates on our Facebook page, and the hotline is available on our website with just a click of a button!

Follow TTAP on Facebook and Instagram.

Key Resources:

  • Video: Coping with COVID-19. Spanish version (TTAP) [Link]
  • The COVID-19 Crisis: Key Protection Messages (UNHCR)​ [Link]
  • Quick Tips on COVID-19 and Migrant, Refugee and Internally Displaced Children (UNICEF) [Link]
  • MHPSS Collaborative: Research on the impacts of children’s exposure to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect – particularly in crisis, migration and displacement situations (MHIN) [Link]

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Region: 
Central America and the Caribbean
Population: 
Adults
Older adults
Setting: 
Community
Approach: 
Technology
Prevention and promotion
Detection and diagnosis
Treatment, care and rehabilitation
Disorder: 
All disorders
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