Updated: May 31, 2022
Mental health has long been neglected in Haiti. Historically, the country's healthcare budget for mental health is below 3% even though the socio-economic situation in Haiti degrades the mental health of its people. Knowing that mental health is still taboo in our community, we asked 7 Haitian Mental Health professionals about how to manage mental health.
1. Dyona Augustin, Ph.D.
Dyona Augustin holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and is the co-founder of Augustin & Augustin Psychology in South Florida. Dyona notices that today's young adult Haitian population struggles with poor boundaries and self-confidence. Dyona says that growing up, many of us were raised to follow our parent's orders and expectations to the letter, so when young adults begin to make their own life choices, they get a lot of pushback from what their parents believe is good.
To combat this, "Recognize that while you are your parent's child, you are NOT them. You are also NOT an extension of them. You are your own unique individual with unique talents, perspectives, characteristics, temperament, personality, etc. In order for a healthy relationship to develop with your parents, you have to have good, healthy boundaries. This means knowing where YOU start and end and where THEY start and end. As you start to make your own decisions, you will grow more confident in your ability to live your life and make the best choices for yourself. This is so freeing!"
2. Giscard M. Saintil, LMHC
Giscard M. Saintil is a Massachusetts-based Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and the owner of Invictus Counseling. He has 10+ years of clinical experience working with children, adolescents, and families. In addition to running his virtual private practice, he also serves as a high school therapist in the Fall River area.
A common issue Giscard notices in Haitians is the individual's inability to speak up for what they believe they deserve in terms of how they want to be treated. "I believe this stems from the common Haitian parents' motto, "Ou se timoun, mwen se gramoun. Pa pale' avem konsa!" Both comments come from parents who misinterpret the young adult as being disrespectful. However the individual was just expressing how they feel about something or someone. This type of upbringing hinders healthy development and can manifest into unhealthy romantic relationship patterns."
Giscard says this can be managed by acknowledging that this is an issue in their life. "I would encourage individuals not to blame themselves and seek out a trained mental health professional. I often hear how people only seek out emotional support from friends and family. Close loved ones cannot be objective in their approach toward someone who is struggling. Mental health therapists are clinically trained to be objective in their approach and deliver a unique set of clinical strategies to help individuals achieve their personal goals."
3. Beverley Andre, LMFT
Beverley Andre is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in New Jersey, serving Black and Brown women and couples. Beverley also believes that establishing boundaries is a common issue for young Haitian adults with the collectivist culture. " Selflessness is prioritized over individual needs, with a focus on family. Therefore, young Haitian millennials are trying to figure out how to be in a relationship with family members who are rigid in their beliefs and don't respect their boundaries, much less see them as adults."
To manage this, Beverley offers the solution of being mindful of what is within our control. " I noticed that my Haitian millennial clients struggle with the need to change their families instead of accepting who that individual chooses to be. I reaffirm that the same rights to dictate how they move in life are the same for their family member. They shouldn't get stuck in a pattern of trying to change people to feel empowered to make decisions about their own lives. This cycle can become unhealthy and further cause a person to believe that they are not in a position of power to change how they choose to live."
4. Vanessa Filmonor, LAC, NCC
Vanessa Filmonor is a Licensed Associate Counselor and a Nationally Certified Counselor located in Hoboken, New Jersey for Be Well Psychotherapy. Vanessa says that young adults can manage mental health by knowing their limits, values and having self-respect. "Know what is acceptable to you and what is not. Do this before involving yourself with anyone or situation. Knowing your limits will further assist you in setting healthier boundaries. For example, if you always give in to others, ask yourself, "am I showing as much respect to myself as I show to others." Open boundaries might be due to your attempt to be liked by others. Our desires to please others and be liked by others may be the driving force behind our lack of boundaries. When we say 'NO" to others, we are saying "YES" to ourselves." she shares.
"Life is already stressful, and if we don't pay attention to our mental health, we can spiral. It is important to seek help when you need it. It is not easy to navigate all of life's challenges alone. It is salient to have a healthy, supportive network. There is no shame in asking for help. We all struggle sometimes."
5. Shirley Dorsainvil, MFTI
Shirley Dorsainvil is a Marriage and Family Therapy Intern based in Orlando, Florida, specializing in anxiety, depression, sexual wellness, and family estrangement. Shirley notices that Haitian youth struggle with perfectionism. "This is mainly from their environment and parenting. They are constantly reminded day and night that they must be the best, and to be the best, you must set high unachievable expectations and find a way to do it. Usually, without the help of those who encouraged them to set these standards of life." she expresses.
To manage the need to be perfect, Shirley says, "There is no easy way to manage your perfectionism because you will need the insight to know and acknowledge that there is a fault to being a perfectionist. I recommend seeing a therapist if you notice you're experiencing the following:
● Believes that everything must be perfect all the time.
● Spending excessive time on trivial problems.
● Setting impossible standards for success, and feeling upset when they are not met.
● Motivated by the fear of failure, criticism, or rejection.
● Only seeing yourself in extremes, as either perfect or a failure.
6. Sara Elysee, LMHC
Sara Elysee is a licensed psychotherapist and the owner of SoundMind Wellness. Born in Haiti and currently based in Florida, Sara's practice areas include trauma and anxiety. Sara feels that low importance is placed on mental health for young Haitian adults.
"We go to the doctor when we have a cold lingering too long but hesitate to see a mental health professional if we are experiencing mental health challenges. This may be due to the negative stigma surrounding mental health in our communities. Systemic racism, distrust in providers, and lack of culturally responsive/anti-oppressive mental health treatment have also created that negative stigma." she explains.
Sara says that investing in mental health care is just as important as the physical. "Staying on top of your mental health is essential to maintaining your well-being. I always encourage therapy, especially if you're in a place where you cannot manage your emotions and everyday life stresses. Therapy is not only for those with serious mental health issues and does not only focus on the past; the benefits also extend beyond periods of crisis. Making your mental health a priority will help you evolve into the best version of yourself and help you feel confident in navigating your life."
7. Christine Altidor, MFTI
Christine Altidor is a pre-licensed therapist, content creator, and coach in Miami, Florida. Christine has master's degrees in Marriage & Family Therapy and Life Coaching and is a Registered Marriage & Family Therapist Intern. She helps couples and high-achieving women of color prioritize personal growth to create successful relationships with themselves and others through her brand No Filter Therapy.
Christine also agrees that a lack of boundaries is a common issue in young Haitian adults. But, aside from the known issues it can cause for mental health, Christine sees a deeper problem. "Setting healthy boundaries with family also includes having healthy boundaries with oneself. I would advise that someone dealing with this issue identify what they're truly afraid of. If they said what they needed, what would be the real consequences? Are the consequences real or assumed? And is not setting boundaries worth the consequences of your mental health being affected?" she challenges.
"Some of the work I do with these types of clients is giving them space to vent their frustrations while also empowering them with tools to respectfully create and enforce boundaries that are appropriate for their stage of development." Christine leaves us with these words that we can all remember when prioritizing our mental health:
"Our mental health affects every part of our lives. If your mental health isn't managed well, your relationships, career, family, finances, and health won't be managed either. You don't have to wait for things to get difficult or overwhelming to see a therapist. Managing your mental health is key to leading and loving the life you live."