Why is it that in our Haitian society seeking mental counseling has always been given a negative connotation? Not only do we not believe in mental health, we also assume that the person seeking help for his or her mental condition has got to be “crazy” because, in our minds, mental counseling is for “crazy” people. Well, today, I am writing this piece to challenge and refute such mindset.

One does NOT need to be “crazy” to seek mental counseling. Since mental health is a component of our overall health, the same way we would go for a physical on a regular basis, our mental health needs that same level of attention or care.

To be aware of the importance of maintaining one’s mental health, to know that mental health is an integral part of one’s overall health, that requires a certain level of education and social sophistication, which the majority of the people do not have.

Some of the things we believe in are really having a toll on the way we care for ourselves. The notion that mentally challenged people must be possessed by some type of a demonic spirit is just unfounded, baseless and ludicrous. Because of such ridiculousness, we are facing a community health challenge, where many mentally ill people in our society are going with their illnesses “undiagnosed” or misdiagnosed.

As a result of a death in the family, for example, a person could be displaying signs and symptoms of severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or whatever the case may be. What do we say of the person’s condition? We say that “sé mò a k ap fè l” or the dead is doing that to him or her. Sometimes, if the person has some known or unknown ties with the Vodou religion, we would hold that some ancestral spirits or “lwas” are persecuting him or her because they have been neglected. And the remedy to that is to call for a Vodou ceremony if the person is a Vodou believer, or engage in all sorts of prayer rituals to “exorcise” the demons if the person is a Christian. Meanwhile, the person’s condition is deteriorating.

Furthermore, there is this stigma we attach to mental illness in our society. We look at that as shameful, disgraceful and appalling. When someone is mentally ill in most of our families, like a family member who contracts HIV, we tend to vilify that person because in our eyes he or she is a disgrace, a subject of shame to our family. What do we do to handle the situation? We try to keep it into hiding as much as we can or send the person away to a member of the family in the countryside. Hence, that person is doomed; he may never get to receive any type of treatment whatsoever for his or her treatable condition.

Growing up in Gonaives, specifically near the community marketplace, I had seen it all -schizophrenic patients, bipolar patients, delusional patients, etc… Most of these people were not from the city; they probably came from the outskirts of town. It would be fair to say that that part of the city was the dumpster for mentally challenged people. Some of these individuals were extremely violent and represented a danger to themselves and others. They should have been admitted, not left unattended to be roving around as though nothing was wrong with them. Then again, if we were to admit them, where would we be putting them, especially when we know that the city’s only public hospital –Providence Hospital -was not equipped with a psychiatric ward to cater to their needs?

The January the 12th earthquake makes matters even more complicated than they already were. It is going to have a negative or devastating long-term effect on the psyche of our nation. Having to deal with the toll of the disaster -300,000 human lives wiped out, thousands of physically paralyzed or traumatized citizens, over one million people living in tent cities with no hopes of a better tomorrow, women being raped on a daily basis, the list goes on and on and on… -this is not going to be a simple task.

There cannot possibly be a Haitian society without the Haitian people. So to rebuild Haiti is to rehabilitate its people physically and mentally. And to mentally rehabilitate the people, these misconceptions surrounding mental health talked about earlier must be addressed comprehensively and systematically.

How can you change the mindset of the people to make them more receptive to the realness of mental illness? In other words, how can you effectively treat someone’s mental illness when that person deeply and strongly believes that his or her condition is the result of some type of unexplained supernatural occurrence? Those are some very steep challenges health care professionals (mental health experts), the Haitian authorities and the international community must tackle should they really want to rebuild the country as they promised to do.

Finally, one does not need to be “crazy” to seek mental counseling. Mental illnesses are real; they have nothing to do with supernatural occurrences. In my opinion, supernatural explanation to mental illness is the easiest way to satisfy our ignorance or limited knowledge. We, medical professionals and educators, have a lot of work to do to challenge these myths and misconceptions killing our people. If education is the key to and essence of life, ignorance is the poison that can destroy it.


Let me ask you a question; hopefully, you will use your brain, not your blind faith to dissect it. Can you please tell me one thing that is to work in your advantage as a Black person that the White man let you have without a fight?

If you look around or if you go down to dig into the historical archives, you will realize that everything we Black folks have for our own emancipation, we had to fight with our lives to earn them -for example, the independence of the Haitian people from the brutal French system of slavery in 1804, the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to abolish segregation and discrimination in the United States, the end of Apartheid in South Africa in 1994, etc… And even after we earn them, we have to be constantly guarding them so that he does not trick us and take them away from us. That goes to show you how much he cannot and must not be trusted.

Yet, without a fight, he brought you Christianity -his imported religion -and handed it to you. You embraced and made it yours. You are so much of a defender of his own religion, more so than he basically is, that you are willing to kill your own brothers and sisters over it –something that does not even belong to you.

You think he cares so much about you that he wants your soul to be spared. While you think he has got to care so much about your soul to be handing you his so-called soul-liberating religion, don’t forget that it was forced on you at a time when you were being treated worse than a pet, not any kind of pet. He submitted you under some of the most egregious and inhuman treatments ever. In spite of it all, you still believe he lets you have his religion because he loves and cares about you so much, huh?

When will you start opening your eyes to see and using your brain to start asking pertinent questions? Let’s use our ability to reason to brainstorm on this issue for a change. Do you seriously believe that the White man let you have his religion because he so much loves you and cares about your soul being spared? If his religion was as good as he told you, do you think he would have let you have it without a fight? And if it was to be working for you, why did he have to force it on you when you had to fight with your life to earn your freedom from him? Let’s talk. Maybe I am in the wrong. If so, please answer the questions and convince me that I am.