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.
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.