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How MCC Partner Zanmi Lasante is Providing Mental Health Care for Haiti's Poorest

How MCC Partner Zanmi Lasante is Providing Mental Health Care for Haiti's Poorest

Noel Derenis (center), who has major depression, stands outside her home in Lahoye, Haiti, with her team of community mental health workers Joseph Benissois (left) and Saint-Hilaire Olissaint. They work with MCC partner, Zanmi Lasante, which provides mental health services that have helped Derenis to regain energy to care for herself and her family. MCC photo/Paul Shetler Fast

Noel Derenis (center), who has major depression, stands outside her home in Lahoye, Haiti, with her team of community mental health workers Joseph Benissois (left) and Saint-Hilaire Olissaint. They work with MCC partner, Zanmi Lasante, which provides mental health services that have helped Derenis to regain energy to care for herself and her family. MCC photo/Paul Shetler Fast

“Close your eyes, and imagine you are walking to your garden,” says Saint-Hilaire Olissaint, a community mental health worker. His calm, soothing voice carries over the din of the nearby street market and the curious chatter of the children watching nearby.

“You open the gate and see the plantain leaves glistening with dew. The trees are heavy with ripe fruit and your plants are loaded with corn, beans and tomatoes ready to harvest. You can smell ripe guavas and wet earth from the rain last night, you can feel the hoe handle gritty in your hand, you can hear your goats in the distance.”

As he talks, the woman to his right, his patient, is holding her chest tightly with one hand, her eyes pinched shut, smiling. Tears are running down her cheek. She is muttering, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus,” under her breath as he narrates each part of this guided visualization exercise.

Noel Derenis, a 57-year-old widow in the rural community of Lahoye, Haiti, a quarter mile from the Dominican border, has major depression. Like many people with mental illness in Haiti, she suffered for years before being able to get the mental health care she needed.



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