Trauma center sends mental health team to Haiti

A local mental health and trauma center is deploying a team of mental health specialists to Haiti in response to Hurricane Matthew.

The Global Trauma Research team in East Flatbush sent out a team of their members and first responders, to provide mental health assistance to Haitians affected by the devastating hurricane on Oct. 10. Organizers from the mental health therapy organization, are emphasizing the trauma assistance along with immediate assistance to displaced Haitians, said a representative from the organization.

“Our response in regards to mental health is to hear the assessment from the government and grassroots organizations on the ground and then revamp our emergency response mental health plan,” said doctor Florence Saint-Jean, executive director for Global Trauma Research, Inc.

“Then we want to connect with the people we have trained over the years, provide a short post training and empower them to go into their communities and use the tools they have to assess for primary and secondary trauma with survivor’s and displaced, and then provide a space for emotional safety. Our sustainability trainings in the past has been for a time such as this.”

Global Trauma Research Inc. provides mental health therapy and services, and other health-related needs to Brooklyn. The organization’s Haiti Trauma Project trains local Haitians on counseling techniques and mental health intervention to assist their community.

The catastrophic category four hurricane, made landfall in the western part of Haiti on Oct. 4. It is the strongest hurricane to affect the country since Hurricane Flora in 1963, which killed thousands and the most devastating natural disaster to affect Haiti since the deadly earthquake in 2010. As the death toll, which is currently at 1,000 deaths continues to rise, relief organizers are preparing to spend months in Haiti.

“We have three folks that we hope to take with us, and we put out a call to first responders and volunteers that have worked with us in the past,” said Saint Jean. “We are clear that we need a needs assessment from the government and people on the ground, who can tell us what they need before we make a move. Our goal is for our first team to be there for 2-4 weeks, followed by the next wave of folks who will continue to go as we have been for the past few years.”

The Global Trauma Research Inc. team will be operating from areas where they have conducted past training, to take appropiatre measures and say that along with environmental disasters, poverty, and other issues affecting Haiti, all factors affect the mental health of Haitians.

“It’s a combination of multiple things,” said Saint Jean. “In the past we’ve done research and a common theme we’ve heard is that the pain and hurt never ends — the natives have this mentality and a feeling that they’re cursed.”

Saint Jean is urging local Brooklynites who want to help, to directly donate funds to trusted organizations with proven track records.

“A lot of people want to donate clothes, shoes, and food, but I suggest to hold off on collections until the needs assessment is provided,” said Saint Jean. “We want to encourage self sufficiency and building the Haitian economy. I strongly recommend that people do thorough research and make contributions to trusted grassroots organizations who are doing the real work for years.”

Donations can be made to gtrinc.org for the organization’s efforts for Haiti, and volunteers with first responder training are encouraged to reach out.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.

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