According to the Bahamas Psychological Association, the effects of Hurricane Dorian coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the most challenging period in modern Bahamian history.
Heart to Heart International medical teams responded to the Bahamas in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in September 2019. As communities worked to recover, the whole world was plunged into the COVID-19 global pandemic. Since then, HHI has been supporting the mental health of the Bahamian people through a partnership with the Bahamas Psychological Association.
The Bahamas Psychological Association has made considerable strides in providing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) to the Bahamian people in a number of ways:
- coordinating efforts amongst multiple agencies
- tailoring services to communities and individuals
- developing a more-sustainable system, including multiple points of support/intervention
- adapting services for differences in linguistics and other cultural worldviews
- establishing and expanding tele-mental health services, help lines, public education campaigns, and capacity building activities
The Heart to Heart International grant enabled the BPA to extend the duration of services (e.g., help lines) and reach a larger proportion of the population across the country. This is especially important as many of the islands do not have mental health professionals. BPA expanded its radio, television and social media reach – capturing the attention of multiple generations to advertise the mental health help lines. This has also increased awareness of the importance of mental health and psychosocial support among decision-makers and other stakeholders.
BPA conducted mental health and psychosocial support training on several islands and in different sectors of Bahamian society, including the religious community, armed forces and education sectors. These trainings emphasized the need to incorporate mental health and psychosocial support into conversations and plans to promote overall health and well-being. It also encouraged empowering communities to recognize the value in the cultural traditions passed down by their ancestors.
The trainings helped build capacity within the disaster risk reduction and mental health fields and contributed to efforts to develop the long-term infrastructure for effective mental health and psychosocial support in the future.
BPA also identified and began training Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Coordinators on select islands. These coordinators will be trained and ready to provide assistance in the event of a natural or man-made disaster on their island of residence and throughout the Bahamas.
“We express profound gratitude to Heart to Heart International for the grant that allowed us to expand our services and start building for tomorrow. We would also commend Heart to Heart International for their expertise and for embodying best practice principles in international humanitarian work, particularly as applied to recognizing and valuing the role of culture and context in their work. We look forward to working with Heart to Heart International in the near future.”– Bahamas Psychological Association
In addition to Heart to Heart International, the Ministry of Health, Pan American Health Organization, the Psychology Department at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and the Bahamas Institute for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (BICAMH) also partnered with BPA for these programs.