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Mental Health in Haiti

by Angela Griffe

As part of the Wednesday at the Center series, the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies welcomed Dr. Bonnie Kaiser to speak about the importance of integrating local culture and language to improve mental health care in Haiti.

The John Hope Franklin Center and the Global Mental Health Initiative at Duke Global Health Institute hosted the packed event which focused on what the field of anthropology can contribute to global health research. Kaiser focused on the importance of accepting local cultural models of mental illness in relation to communication and measurement, care-seeking behavior, and understanding misfortune.

Kaiser advocated for researchers and mental health professionals to utilize local “idioms of distress,” such as reflechi tròp, or “thinking too much” rather than biomedical terms. Integrating these idioms into mental health screenings makes for more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Kaiser in the front of a room

Dr. Kaiser field questions from the crowd. photo by Angela Griffe

Kaiser also stressed the importance of Vodou priests and the Catholic Church as common sources of care and treatment. Many Haitians believe mental illness is the result of “sent spirits,” and as such, turn to religion rather than medical care.

Mental health care is “too focused on singular clinical settings,” Kaiser concluded, and professionals and researchers need to focus more on how social inequality and structural violence affect the way mental illness should be viewed and treated.

 

Events

Conversations with Duke’s Religious Life Leaders

Speaker: Fr. Michael Martin, O.F.M Conv.

This conversation will feature Father Michael Martin of the Duke Catholic Center. The discussion will include the role of faith leaders, creating community, and examining religiosity on campus.

Fr. Michael Martin, O.F.M. Conv was named Director of the Duke Catholic Center in August 2010 by Bishop Michael Burbidge, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, NC. Since 2001 Fr. Mike served as President of his high school alma mater, Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, MD. In his role as President, Fr. Mike was the catalyst for transformational growth in all facets of school leadership, advancement, enrollment, finances, personnel and facility planning. A lifelong educator, Fr. Mike was Principal of Archbishop Curley prior to being his tenure as President. He holds a S.T.B. degree in Theology from the Pontifical Theological Faculty at St. Bonaventure-The Seraphicum in Rome, Italy, a M.Ed. in Catholic Education Administration from Boston College, as well as his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from St. Hyacinth College-Seminary, Granby, Massachusetts. As a member of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, he has held a variety of teaching, coaching and administrative positions since his ordination in 1989 including an adjunct faculty position at Xavier University in Cincinnati. He has served on a number of boards and commissions and is a highlighted presenter on strategic issues facing Catholic schools today and the important role of advancement in sustaining the mission of Catholic education. In 2007 he received the Pro Eccelsia et Pontifice medal for service to the Church from Pope Benedict XVI.

This presentation is sponsored by the John Hope Franklin Center and the Duke University Center for International and Global Studies. A light lunch will be served. Parking is available in nearby Trent Rd. and Erwin Rd. parking decks. The series provides 1-hour parking vouchers to guests.