CDB, PAHO to support mental health after disasters

From Left: Jesse Schutt Aine of PAHO and Monica La Bennett CDB,

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados As this year’s hurricane season gets underway, psychosocial support will be utilized to help Caribbean people when disaster hits.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) have launched the “Stronger Together” campaign that draws attention to the information and tools available to assist communities in better coping with the psychological impact of adverse events.

“In the Caribbean, most disaster response communication material focuses on ensuring that people recognize storm warnings, know where to go for assistance and how to prepared their homes. However, few communication campaigns or products help people build resilience to cope with the impacts of disasters. This campaign aims to fill that gap,” said Jessie Schutt-Aine, PAHO Subregional Programme Coordinator, Caribbean.

“Stronger Together” will also tackle the stigma associated with seeking mental health and psychosocial support. It will put a special focus on vulnerable people, such as children and adolescents, women, older persons, or persons with disabilities. In addition, the gender-sensitive campaign addresses issues related to the different roles that men and women have in the family and the community, a possible rise in gender-based violence following disasters, and gender differences when accessing health services.

“The campaign spreads the message that together we can build resilience to natural disasters. We have to be prepared now to cope tomorrow. Strengthening social and individual resilience is essential in any response to disasters. Building back better after a disaster, means building back with resilience,” said Monica La Bennett, Vice-President (Operations), CDB.

It is part of a PAHO and CBD initiative to train 16 psychologists, psychiatrists and social workers in mental health and psychosocial support in the aftermath of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. This has created a roster of health professionals from which PAHO can mobilise resources to affected countries in an emergency.

The awareness campaign will run until October 2019 and includes an illustrated