Haiti: Healing hearts and minds

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24 January 2010
By Joe Lowry, IFRC, in Haiti

For the first time, psychosocial support (PSP) is an integral part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) relief operation. It’s already making a huge difference to hundreds of earthquake survivors - helping them to express their grief, their worries, their fears. 

Barely 72 hours after her arrival in Port-au-Prince, Danish PSP team leader Ea Akasha and 22 Haitian National Red Cross Society volunteers are already working with 150 clients a day. 

Learning from the tsunami experience, Ea and her colleagues are careful to find out how local people express themselves, what works, what doesn’t, and ensuring nothing is too intrusive. 

“We talk to them before they go to see the medical doctors. It’s psychological first aid for people who have lost everything," she says. "We find out about them, they tell us their stories. Getting them talking is part of activating their own coping mechanisms, how they can get back in touch with life, face reality.” 

Ea has noted that many people talk about suicide. “That’s atypical,” she says. “You have to be very deeply affected to consider suicide. On the other hand, the one thing that gives them resilience is their faith. It’s very strong and it helps them get through.”