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World Mental Health Day

Written by Dahla

According to the World Health Organization, October 10 is dedicated to raising public awareness about mental health issues. Their fact sheet on Depression reveals the following:

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression. 
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.
  • At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • There are effective treatments for depression. Though, access to treatment is a problem in most countries and in some countries fewer than 10% of those who need it receive such treatment.

Depression is a serious and alarming situation where most people in the Haitian community often disregard this illness and they do not seek help for proper treatment. Depression is real and it can happen to anyone, at any age, at any social and financial status. It can either be short-term or long-term depending upon the underlying factor and if it is left untreated, depression can leave the individual in a debilitating state. Sometimes, you would hear the word “moun fou” in Haiti (meaning crazy person) to identify an individual who has lost their mental abilities to comprehend and be logic in their regular activities. I often wondered if that person was to be seen by a medical doctor or licensed healthcare professional, would the diagnosis still be “moun fou”?  I don’t know but I always had doubts in my mind when I hear someone labeled as “moun fou” and that hurts.  

We have a long way to go in our community to remove the stigma of a “moun fou” as if that person has no emotions, no desires, and no love. I see people often laughed at those who are homeless, depressed or just act strangely to them just because they are odd to their eyes; but they forget that those people need help and have a story to tell. I would say that we can all be subjected to one day, in our lives to be depressed and that most of us can bounce back easily from it. But, for some, they may require medical treatment to become “normal” again which can be different in the eye of the beholder.

A tragedy, a specific trauma, a chronic illness, substance dependency,  the loss of a loved one, years of unemployment, the end a relationship, the loss of a child, long term injuries, natural disasters such as the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the tsunami, and many other situations can lead to depression. Whatever the case may be, we ought to listen to our bodies, to our emotions and reach out to others and seek help. And, sometimes our family and friends or colleagues are the ones that may bring it to our attention to see a mental health professional or a psychologist. From my perspective, when an individual has a mental disorder, their entire family suffers as well so I would say depression is a family, social and community illness and we  need to be more compassionate to each other and to the loved ones affected by a mental disorder.

Don’t suffer in secrecy! Do not be ashamed to acknowledge your depression!  Do seek help! 

There needs to be more training in our community, more health tools to treat the different types of mental disorders and prevent misdiagnosis. If you are diagnosed with a mental illness, know that you are not alone and please seek the proper treatment suitable to your needs. Find out about the clinics, health centers in your neighborhood that offer mental health treatment for your ethnicity and especially finding the right professional that speaks your language. Furthermore, if you are seeing a counselor, a psychotherapist, it does not automatically mean that you are a “ moun fou” (crazy person).

Take time to review the resources listed below and share them with friends and family. Let’s help each other be in a better place by acknowledging others, making them feel at ease to talk to us and by listening to their emotions through great communication.

Remember, a person with a mental disorder still needs to be loved!




  1. What is Depression?  Source: World Health Organization
  2. Mental Health News  Source: World Health Organization
  3. Mental Health Hotline Numbers and Referral Resources  Source: 
  4. Mental Health Help Hotlines  Source:
  5. Listing of facilities offering services to the Haitian American Community in NYC   Source: NYC.Gov- Community Mental Health 
  6. Haitian Mental Health (HMH) Network  – provides resources & conferences about mental illness
  7. Association Haitienne de Psychologie in Haiti - Phone: (509) 2244-2514/ 2244-2245   Email:
  8. American Psychological Association – provides resources on different disorders
  9. World Federation for Mental Health(WMFH) – provides resources on mental health, policy & conferences.   Email:
  10. Taking Care of your Emotional Health after a Disaster Source: American Red Cross
  11. WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP)  Source: World Health Organization


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