What Does Haiti Need Most?
“The most urgent need … is not food and water which is temporary. The most urgent need is for psychiatrists.” — From an AP article in the Monterey Herald
Ah yes, food and water are temporary. Psychiatry is forever. Who can forget the great Thorazine famine of Ireland or the poor little Ethiopians with no Zyprexa in their bellies?
As many as one in five Haiti earthquake victims has suffered trauma so great with the multiple shock of lost homes, jobs and loved ones that they won’t be able to cope without professional help, doctors say.
The people of Haiti are grieving. They have every reason to grieve. It’s not an illness. Who are doctors to ascertain who will cope without psychiatric intervention or even to declare that coping is mandatory? No nation that has ever rebuilt itself from ashes and rubble or the widespread damage of war and political land grabbing has psychiatry to thank for their renewal. It has never been a drug induced haze of vague acceptance that spurs people to rebuild but the knowledge that action is required and genuine help from people in a position to offer it. We should be providing the true necessities of survival and the tools necessary to rebuild as they determine the direction of their own nation, not assuming as we have here that we know someone’s needs better than they do and there is a pill for every hardship that’s been thrust upon us. By all means, let’s offer our emotional support but let’s let them determine their needs and act as friends, not crusaders. God help us if our response to grief and loss in every suffering country is the expansion of the lucrative, western and drug-centered psych industry with all of its ills — but then again maybe we can offer a little bit of the peace and happiness synonymous with being a psychiatric patient.