The 2nd Annual Conference on Haitian Mental Health was held on May 3-4, 2013 at William James College. The two-day event drew about 150 attendees from Haiti, Canada, Miami, New York, California and other cities throughout the U.S. The conference began with Welcoming Remarks from the President of the Haitian Mental Health (HMH) Network, Dr. Gemima St. Louis; the President of William James College, Dr. Nicholas Covino; and Core Faculty, Dr. Jill Bloom. Welcoming remarks were also given by Consul Weslyne Nicolas, of the Haitian Consulate in Boston; Former State Representative Marie St. Fleur, Chief of Advocacy and Strategist Investment at City of Boston; and Charlot Lucien of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
This year's theme was Weathering the Storm like Bamboo: Rethinking the Concept of "Resilience" in the Haitian Community. Dr. Suze Prudent delivered a thought-provoking Opening Address and offered an alternative framework for conceptualizing the notion of resilience as it applies to the Haitian context. On the first day of the conference, Professors Marjory Clermont-Mathieu and Ronald Jean Jacques presented the findings from a state-of-the-art research study conducted with more than 1,400 children and adolescents aged 6 to 20 years who lived in camps in Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake. The panelists discussed strategies and mental resources used by young survivors to cope with traumatic life experiences. The first-day program also included presentations by Dr. Jean B. Tropnas; Dr. Patrick Bellegarde-Smith; and panelists Mel Schmid, Carline Jean-Baptiste, Michele Klau, Betsy Sherwood, Carine Luxama and Lauren Easton.
The second day began with Welcoming Remarks given by Dr. Castagna Lacet, Vice-President of the HMH Network;Dr. Frances Merwyn, Dean of Students at William James College;and Dr. Ed K.S. Wang, Director of the Office of Multiculttural Affairs at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. Throughout the course of the day, there were several individual and panel presentations that focused on a range of topics, including faith and spirituality, mindfulness, and healing and recovery as well as programs that are addressing the psychosocial needs of women and youth in Haiti. Dr. Guerda Nicolas delivered the Closing Remarks in which she argued that it is erroneous to label Haitians and other ethnic groups as "resilient". She remarked that if being resilient is to overcome poverty, misfortune and negative life experiences, it is inconceivable to apply this term to the Haitian context given the current circumstances under which many Haitians continue to live.
Other highlights from the conference include an Art Exhibition, "
The Colors of Resilience," organized by the Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts; a Networking Hour during which conference attendees engaged in a self-care activity on Haitian music and dance hosted by EJ Dance Studio; and the signing of the newly-published book, "
La Santé Mentale en Haiti après le 12 Janvier 2010: Traumatismes, Approaches et Traitements," written by Professors Clermont-Mathieu and Jean Jacques. The conference concluded with a magnificent
Celebration of Haitian Heritage Month with performances by OAMEC (Open Access to Musci Education for Children), and renowned artists Pierre Gardy Fontaine, Gifrants and Mirlande Butler. Copies of the presentations delivered at the 2nd Annual Conference on Haitian Mental Health are available online at
On April 25th, William James College hosted its second annual Haitian art exhibit "The Colors of Resilience" featuring 30 pieces by 23 artists from the Haitian Art Assembly of Massachusetts (HAAM) and Jacmel, Haiti. The reception was attended by members of HAAM, the Haitian Mental Health Network and William James College students, administrators and staff.
Also in attendance were 6 student artists from Haiti on a cultural exchange sponsored by the Association for the Promotion of Integrated Family Health (APROSIFA) and hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC). These remarkable students, ages 14-21, and their chaperones and interpreter, added a warmth and poignancy to the event as they shyly unrolled their own paintings, representative of their personal experiences in Haiti, for all to see. Their talent and depth was obvious and inspired many of the attendees to the point that some of their paintings were purchased on the spot.
"One of the greatest satisfactions felt last night by members of the Haitian Artists Assembly, aside from the commitment on display by William James College and the Haitian Mental Health Network, was the spontaneous, generous purchase of some of the paintings of these youth by guests attending the opening. The young artists left with a sense of pride and validation." Charlot Lucien, Founder, HAAM.
75% of the proceeds from this exhibit goes to HAAM and the artists of Jacmel, Haiti and the remainder is used to purchase art supplies for youth from Jacmel who are being mentored by advanced artists.