Grief, Trauma Counselors Sought for Haiti Initiative

CHICAGO, IL (February 10, 2009) – World Relief International is seeking grief and trauma counselors to help with work in Haiti. Counselors who speak French or Creole are especially needed.

Counselors and other medical workers also are asked to volunteer online.

A recent World Relief International report notes that although many people live in dire conditions, with no regular food source or clean water supply, many families continue to rejoice in God and offer thanks for their survival. But the organization, a partner with Covenant World Relief, adds that the emotional wounds also are evident and will continue to become more apparent.

“The mental health of thousands of Haitians will be an issue long after international aid workers have left the country.”

Missionaries and other relief workers describe varying emotional reactions, including people who are afraid to close their eyes and are frightened during even the slightest tremor. Emotional wounds also may not be detected for some time, but can be the most difficult to heal, according to mental health professionals.

According to a Voice of America news service online report, which is sponsored in part by the U.S. Government, “the mental health of thousands of Haitians will be an issue long after international aid workers have left the country.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says relief workers and others traveling to Haiti will also need to consider how to address their own mental health while in the country and afterwards.

“As a first responder or relief worker, you may encounter extremely stressful situations, such as witnessing a tremendous loss of life, serious injuries, missing and separated families, and destruction of whole areas,” the site notes. “It is important to recognize that these experiences may cause you psychological or emotional difficulties.”

According to the CDC, there are several common reactions experienced by those working in disaster areas:

  • Profound sadness, grief, and anger
  • Not wanting to leave the scene until the work is finished
  • Trying to override stress and fatigue with yet higher levels of dedication and commitment
  • Denying the need for rest and recovery time

The CDC website lists several ways for workers to deal with stress:

  • Limit on-duty work time to no more than 12 hours per day
  • Rotate work assignments between high-stress and lower-stress functions
  • Drink plenty of water and eat healthy snacks and energy foods
  • Take frequent, brief breaks from the scene when you are able
  • Keep an object of comfort with you such as a family photo, favorite music, or religious material
  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Pair up with another responder so that you can monitor one another’s stress levels

Consult the CDC website for other medical information related to traveling and working in Haiti.

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