Twa Zanmi (Three Friends)
Haitian Americans in Boston used various media and community events to build awareness that depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are treatable illnesses. The team members also directed their populace to treatment resources, and, in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, directly provided some of those services to people. Specifically, the three project partners focused on:
- Producing informative Creole radio programs about trauma, anxiety, and depression
- Hosting multiple open forums to discuss mental health issues
- Creating a novela-style movie depicting mental health issues in the Haitian middle class
- Providing direct mental health counseling to individuals and groups to address the grief and trauma resulting from the earthquake of 2010
- Producing a video in Creole in which three persons talked about their emotional and mental struggles following the earthquake
Project Snapshot: Renald Raphael
“I left Haiti to come to the United States to pursue my medical education,” said Renald Raphael, Community Health Coordinator for the Haitian American Public Health Initiative (HAPHI) in Boston. “My immigrant journey continued as a seesaw between who I was - a licensed medical professional - and who I was forced to become: just [another] immigrant in search of a new life. Through the New Routes Twa Zanmi project, I have learned new ways of dealing with mental health issues that have affected my life and the lives of many of my fellow immigrants in this country.”
The Twa Zanmi project leaders encountered many challenges—some from within their ranks and others from external forces way beyond their control. Project managers and participants discussed difficult issues in which strong differing opinions were held. Issues such as class, language, creative input and control, resources, and the like. Compromises were hammered out with one another. One of the partners, HAPHI, had to move their offices with only 30 days notice. A key volunteer become ill and was hospitalized. The partners also had to quickly respond to the grief and terror brought on by the earthquake in Haiti that took place January 2010. Counselors were hired, clergy involved, meetings held to alleviate the suffering of the many that lost family, friends, property, and life savings. New refugees were helped with practicalities and given comfort and counseling.
In the end though, Twa Zanmi produced 20 radio programs, and succeeded in making mental health issues topics that could be discussed more openly. It enlisted the help of Pastor Colbert Calixte who came on board to design a psychosocial response to the earthquake crises and to incorporate spiritual aspects into the healing. Pastor Calixte also helped bring the Twa Zanmi messages to his local church. HAPHI produced A 20-minute video in Creole portraying refugees from the earthquake talking about their losses and experiences seeking help in the United States. That effort increased its ability to use media to reach its community. The longer movie-length video in French was produced by Haitian Media Network.
A devastating event could be used to produce good. The January 2010 earthquake in Haiti was used as an opportunity to focus openly on mental health issues and get people the help they needed most. Business as usual had to be suspended in order to better serve people directly with practical help, counseling, and comfort. At the same time, media, especially the Twa Zanmi radio shows, was valuable in getting people guidance about mental health help and directing them to practical help such as finding out about missing relatives in Haiti.
The more people directly express their needs and participate in solving their own problems using community services, the more likely their attitudes and behaviors will change. This, in turn, led some participants to become leaders who then made connections to policy makers and university program staff.
Watch and Listen
New Research & Recommendations
This report (PDF 3.8MB) offers guidance for community organizations and those who fund social change in how best to harness the power of local media-making for community health improvement. Spanish-language version is now available. Una versión en español de este informe esta en la web.