Hurricane Dorian Recovery: Providing Mental Health Care

Commitment by International Medical Corps

In 2020, International Medical Corps (IMC) committed to build the capacity of health and social workers on Grand Bahama Island to provide mental health and psychosocial support to communities impacted by Hurricane Dorian. The hurricane greatly increased the need for mental health services, but the local health workforce is understaffed and overburdened. To address this, in coordination with the Bahamas Ministry of Health and local Mental Health Services and Social Services agencies, IMC will train and supervise 12 local staff in the management of a variety of mental health conditions, also providing training on self-care and positive coping to mitigate against burnout amongst these professionals. IMC will also reach an estimated 20,000 community members through sensitization campaigns aimed at reducing stigma associated with mental health, a major barrier to care. As a result, 350 people in impacted communities will receive critically needed mental health services this year.



Hurricane Dorian Recovery: Providing Mental Health Care



Est. Duration

1 Year

Estimated Total Value



Latin America & Caribbean



Commitment by

International Medical Corps

Partner(s) of the Commitment Maker(s)


International Medical Corps’ Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) team will leverage its work across the region, most recently in Puerto Rico, USVI, and Dominica in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, to build MHPSS capacity across the Bahamas in partnership with the Bahamas Mental Health Services (MHS) and Social Services staff. IMC will work with these agencies to surge critically needed mental health and psychosocial support activities on the Hurricane Dorian-affected island of Grand Bahama.

In order to meet the gaps found in IMC's analysis of critical needs in Grand Bahama, IMC will train primary health care staff, community health workers, and social services staff; implement mental health outreach campaigns; and strengthen mental health coordination services across the island.

IMC swill train 12 local health and social workers to address mental, neurological, and substance use disorders. This training provides clinical guidance on the management of depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy, preventing suicide and provision of psychosocial support, and supporting integration of mental health care into primary health care. IMC will provide supervision to those trained to support on-the-job implementation and ensure that trainees maintain an understanding of topics learned. IMC will also provide training on self-care, positive coping, psychological first aid, and mental health awareness-raising for professional and non-professional staff. Ultimately, IMC expects that this training will enable these professionals to provide mental health care to 350 people this year.

Additionally, IMC will tackle stigma by conducting community-level sensitization sessions through its emergency health facility in High Rock, Grand Bahama, reaching an estimated 20,000 people. IMC will also continue leading an MHPSS working group in Grand Bahama that they co-established to complement the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) coordination group in Nassau, ensuring international and local responders are communicating and planning their responses based on community needs and best practices. Across MHPSS activities, International Medical Corps will work with the Public Health Authority (PHA), who leads the provision of inpatient, outpatient, community and home-based mental health services, as well as the Ministry of Health, to conduct ongoing assessments of needs to ensure they are met.

Quarter One and Ongoing: Training
IMC will train 12 health and social workers on the management of mental, neurological, and substance use disorders, provide supervision, and train workers on self-care and positive coping.

Quarters Two and Three: Mental Health Awareness Campaigns.
To address stigma related to mental health, International Medical Corps will conduct community-level sensitization sessions and MHPSS support through its emergency health facility set up in High Rock, Grand Bahama.

Quarters Three and Four: Coordination
International Medical Corps will continue to support coordination around mental health by continuing to lead a MHPSS working group in Grand Bahama, which will continue to complement the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) coordination group in Nassau, ensuring international and local responders are communicating and planning their responses in based on community needs and best practices.


Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas on Sunday, September 1, 2019 as a Category 5 hurricane. This was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Bahamas -- the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency reported that Hurricane Dorian affected the north-western Bahamas islands for an approximate total of 68 hours, with the southern eye-wall planted over Grand Bahama for about 30 hours. The unpredictability and unprecedented nature of this hurricane was also record-making.

Dorian left an unparalleled level of damage. Moreover, the impact of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas has exacerbated mental health and psychosocial support needs. International Medical Corps’ situational analysis in Grand Bahama found that most of the affected persons and communities have experienced the following problems and stressors: grief and loss; difficulty sleeping; stress; loss of home and property; overcrowding; protection concerns; limited support mechanisms; and more.

Additionally, medical and mental health service providers are overburdened, especially on the island of Grand Bahama. Representatives at the island’s Mental Health Services (MHS) have reported that there has been an increase in mental health cases and more cases of psychosocially distressed individuals in the communities. Medical staff, social workers, and policemen shared that they are on the edge of burnout; in addition, the island only has the capacity for 10 mental health inpatients, the MHS remains understaffed, and they struggle to provide outpatient consultations through the main hospital on the island and community outreach. Moreover, International Medical Corps has found that stigma is a major barrier to accessing and accepting mental health services.

Partnership Opportunities

International Medical Corps continues to seek implementing partners to provide care in the Bahamas, as well as financial resources to expand the scope of their work. International Medical Corps would welcome the opportunity to provide training for community-based organizations throughout the region on key MHPSS principles, including psychological first aid, suicide prevention, and the use of the online MHPSS toolkit, to expand the scope and reach of mental health services in the Caribbean.

Progress Reports

February 2021

Hurricane Dorian uprooted families and changed their lives overnight, while lost loved ones and separation from community left individuals in need of support. In a rapid initial assessment, International Medical Corps found that Grand Bahama residents were experiencing grief, loss, stress, sleeping disturbances, and survivors’ guilt. One barrier to care was the fact that the medical and mental health service providers were overburdened by healthcare demands and were affected themselves by the hurricane. Stigma was another major barrier to accessing and accepting mental health services. People who are in distress are often reluctant to seek help, worried about public perception, especially as the island of Grand Bahama is a close and small community.

To address the broad range of mental health and psychosocial support needs, International Medical Corps deployed mental health and psychosocial support staff (MHPSS) staff to provide psychosocial support and promote self-care and positive coping mechanisms. International Medical Corps’ MHPSS activities in Grand Bahama had the ultimate goal of enhancing the capacity of existing services and meeting the increasing needs of the Hurricane Dorian-affected populations.

By the close of this program, International Medical Corps’ specific activities included the below, following the assessment of the most urgent needs.

International Medical Corps trained 167 health and service providers on positive coping and psychological first aid (PFA), which teaches both professionals and non-professionals how to be supportive, do no harm, communicate effectively, connect people to needed services, and engage in self-care.

Mental health and psychosocial support sessions for 1,146 people were held. Two national psychosocial workers and the MHPSS Coordinator conducted MHPSS awareness raising sessions in churches and schools during regular classes and PTA meetings, clinics, and conferences to share information on mental health and psychosocial aspects after Hurricane Dorian.

The program raised the awareness of mental health, psychosocial support and protection needs, available services, and the need for positive coping mechanisms and reducing stigma for more than 11,281 community members throughout all of our programming through the 40 trained Community Health Volunteers.

The program launched public service announcements through radio, where messages on mental health and where to get professional help reach approximately 5,000 regular listeners.
International Medical Corps also initiated a hotline to support the population of the 25,000 people who remained post- Dorian and thousands who began returning in 2020, while COVID-19 also unfortunately began impacting the island. The hotline assisted 96 callers. Additionally, International Medical Corps provided nine webinars, titled “Healthy Mind” during the program period reaching 175 individuals, including 149 females and 26 males. The COVID-19 pandemic, on top of the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, caused a resurfacing of the fear and anxiety that many had struggled to control in the aftermath of the storm. When social distancing, isolation, and finally the lockdown were imposed, that concern increased. Furthermore, parents were expressing frustration as a result of a loss of jobs and livelihoods, as well as children needing to stay home from school. The webinars helped people understand stress and anxiety and how to control it; provided parents with strategies for supporting their children and teenagers through the COVID-19 crisis; explained the benefits of self-care; provided tools for coping with confinement, uncertainty, and re-entry; demonstrated tips for calming anxiety through practicing mindfulness; assisted participants to distinguish between loss, grief, frustration, and anger; and provided caregivers with strategies for supporting persons with developmental delays and disabilities.