Caribbean Mental Health History Month
February welcomes the first day that we observe Caribbean Mental Health History Month! This month we focus on our pioneers and advances in Caribbean mental health locally and within our region to celebrate our historic progress!
Mental Health Foundation Sint Maarten officially opened its doors in 2006 under the directorship of Ms. Eileen Healy. Its first address was at L.B. Scott Road #107, currently known as Pasture Piece SXM.
Our humble beginning consisted of just six staff members at the time, solely offering services in clinic care. Fast forward to 2023 at our location at Leopard Road #1 Cay Hill, we have a workforce of over 40 persons ranging from psychiatrists, psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Psychiatric nurses, social workers, and much more!
Why the need for a focus on Caribbean psychology?From the book "Caribbean Psychology - Indigenous Contributions to a Global Discipline" (2016):
For one thing, as Ava D. Thompson (Chapter 1, this volume) puts it, despite attempts to develop an indigenous view of psychology, the psychological stories of Caribbean peoples have been missing from the broader international discourses in the psychological sciences. This missing link is not limited to Caribbean psychology.
The same may also be said for human development in other regions such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.
Obviously, psychological principles that are not inclusive of other cultural groups around the world are inherently limited and fail to utilize the two-way flow and integration of scientific information from the majority to the developed world. The bidirectional flow and exchange of information could be of use in validating exiting theories and constructing new ones, in shaping research agendas, in encouraging collaborations and cross-fertilization of ideas, and in strengthening clinical practice and service delivery systems in attending to human needs more broadly.
Given their different histories of oppression, experiences
with colonialism, and identity confusion, a psychology of Caribbean peoples has relevance beyond its local borders. The large Caribbean diaspora in North America and Europe (e.g., Great Britain, the Netherlands) and ethnic and cultural groups in other postcolonial societies in Africa and other parts of the world may profit from knowledge systems developed in the Caribbean.
Because Caribbean ethnic groups (e.g., African Caribbean, Indo
Caribbean) in the diaspora are twice-removed from the ancestral cultures, a focus on them may offer insights into cultural continuity and discontinuity in patterns of psychological functioning and development."
How to interpret this excerpt?
it is observed that psychology is not a one size fits all. We are called to observe and navigate our unique existence and foster a culturally informed approach to our unique psychological needs and rehabilitation.
One of the greatest and earliest Caribbean Psychiatrists: Frantz Fanon.
Frantz Fanon was born in Martinique on july 20, 1925. In highschool he first encountered the philosophy of negritude, taught to him by Aimé Césaire, Martinique’s other renowned critic of European colonization. This encounter enspired much of the journey of his life work. Fanon left Martinique at the age of 18, to fight with the Free French forces in the waning days of World War II.
After the war, he stayed in France to study psychiatry and medicine at university in Lyons. His bafflingly encounter with simplistic anti-black racism inspired him to write “An Essay for the Disalienation of Blacks,” the piece of writing that would eventually become Peau Noire, Masques Blancs (1952).
He later bid adieu to France and accepted a position as chef de service (chief of staff) for the psychiatric ward of the Blida-Joinville hospital in Algeria. Fanon treated both the psychological distress of the soldiers and officers of the French army who carried out torture in order to suppress anti-colonial resistance and the trauma suffered by the Algerian torture victims.
Having abandoned his French affiliations, Fanon devoted himself to the cause of Algerian independence, and wrote his most brilliant work. During a post in Ghana, Fanon discovered he was ill with leukemia and died on December 6, 1961 in the U.S.A. His body was returned and buried in the soil of the Algerian nation for which he fought so single-mindedly during the last years of his life.
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