Inspired by the service organization Pyramid for an Optimal Mix of Services for Mental Health (WHO, 2009)1, we consolidated the services initially offered by the “natural caregivers” (active members of their community, with diverse backgrounds, e.g. nurse, farmer, driver, minister, etc.) in Grand Goâve, Haiti by creating a non-profit organization to develop a team of non-specialist mental health persons consisting of nine natural caregivers and eight primary school teachers.
The project’s educational and intervention activities focus on five components:
Developing a non-specialist mental health team
Training and supervision of the non-specialist mental health team is regularly offered from Canada through Skype and locally through one-week mission trips 3-4 times a year, by the project team (8 mental health professionals from Montreal and 2 Haitian psychologists)
With appropriate training and supervision in mental health psychosocial interventions, natural caregivers became first level providers with general knowledge on mental health issues, providing support and referrals to the people of Grand Goâve.
Increase in Mental Health Literacy
Educational radio shows are a powerful mass medium to inform a large number of citizens, thereby saving time, energy, money and resources in an effective way.
This project has produced tailor-made messages for the Haitian population that are broadcasted twice a week. Each program lasts one hour and discusses one key topic such as child development and parental/family problems potentially leading to violence among other family related topics. These themes were proposed to the local community workers in relation to our principal objectives. We progressively adapted the program planning to the needs and suggestions of the population (questions or comments addressed to presenters by phone or SMS).
The aim of these messages is to educate, inform and mobilize the audience collectively as well as individually. For the collective population specifically, the aim is to build and adopt non-violent relationships and behaviors with children.
Another strategy the project is using to reach and inform different sectors of the population is through conferences on specific mental health issues which are organized every so often.
In both cases, natural caregivers benefit from the transfer of knowledge through the guidance of the Montreal based mental health professionals.
Zippy’s Friends is a mental health promotion programme for school children, which is delivered by trained classroom teachers. This programme (1 hour/week, for 14 weeks) was created in London, in 1996, to help young children – 6 and 7-year-olds – to develop coping and social skills. Children also learn to identify and talk about their feelings and to explore ways to find solutions when confronted with difficult situations such as conflict, rejection or grief.
Home care visits with first time mothers
Home care visits by natural caregivers are designed to help first time mothers to engage in healthy practices with their infants. The visits provide support and knowledge on early development and affective needs, in order for the mothers to become proud and successful parents. Natural caregivers are trained on topics such as mother-child attachment and different aspects of child development through a bio-psycho-social perspective.
Parenting skill workshops
Parenting skill workshops consist of a four weekly session curriculum based on themes consistent with “Enhance parental skills”, a programme created in 1997-98 in Quebec, specifically designed for the Haitian community. The goal is to replace corporal punishment and other ineffective parenting styles with effective, proven, child-friendly parenting skills. The natural caregivers were also trained to run these workshops.