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Haitian Mental Health

Haitian Mental Health

Across Waters (Lòt Bò Dlo): Haitian Identity, Migration, and Psychosocial Adaptation

3rd Annual Conference on Haitian Mental Health Saturday, May 3, 2014

Background

Fancy Market

Haitian Heritage
Month Event

3rd Annual Celebration of
Haitian Art & Culture

"Vibrant Streets of Haiti"
An Art Exhibition by the Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts

Opening Ceremony
Saturday, May 3, 2014
4:30 - 6:30 pm

Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology
One Wells Avenue
Newton, MA

The art exhibition will
be on display from
May 3 - June 14, 2014.

When Haiti fought for and gained its independence over two centuries ago, it established its identity as the first Black-led Republic in the world. In the post-colonial era, Haitians, as a free nation, struggled to redefine their identity in the context of complex social and psychological conditions that have marred their existence. The quest for a "Haitian identity" was further complicated by the deep fissure that existed within the country, and continue to be manifested, in the dualities of class, language, and religion—namely, the great divide between the privileged and the uneducated masses, the French and the Creole speakers, the city dwellers and the residents of remote villages, and individuals who espouse a Christian faith vs. those who practice Vodou.

Haitians' struggle to define their identity has been compounded by the country's history of natural disasters, political instability, and economic disadvantage—factors that have all contributed to various waves of immigration to different parts of the world, creating what is now informally recognized as the "Tenth Department" of the country's geographical region, the Haitian Diaspora.

As Haitians have sojourned by air and across waters (vwayaje lòt bò dlo) in search of a stable life and better economic and educational opportunities for themselves and their progeny, they have not always enjoyed a warm reception abroad. The United States, which has the largest Haitian population in the Diaspora, has experienced a steady flow of Haitian migration since the 1920s. Yet, Haitian immigrants continue to be at a significant disadvantage due to their "triple minority status"—as Blacks, immigrants, and non-English speakers in the U.S. With an estimated 1 million Haitians living in the United States, accounting for the third largest immigrant group and the fifth source of Black migration to the country, the trend is expected to continue well into the next century. But, how has the experience of migration influenced the cultural identity of Haitians as a people living in the Diaspora? Is the notion of a "Haitian identity" the same in Haiti as it is overseas? Is it different for earlier waves of immigrants than more recent immigrants or second generation Haitians? What have been the costs and benefits of maintaining one's Haitian-ness while acculturating to a foreign land? More important, what aspects of being Haitian may facilitate or hinder the psychosocial adaptation of Haitians in the Diaspora? What are the implications for addressing the educational, social, and mental health needs of immigrant Haitian children, adolescents, individuals, and families?

Conference Theme and Objectives

The 3rd Annual Conference on Haitian Mental Health will focus on Haitian Identity, Migration, and Psychosocial Adaptation. The Conference will bring together practitioners, researchers, educators, community leaders, and policymakers to engage in a discourse on Haitian identity, migration experiences, and adaptation in the Diaspora. The primary aim of the Conference is to provide an intellectually stimulating forum for conference presenters and attendees to engage in theoretical, research, and practice-based inquiries on the identity and cultural heritage of Haitians and Haitian Americans, and the impact on their psychosocial adaptation as immigrants living in a foreign country.

Upon completion of this program, conference attendees will be able to:

Understand the process of identity formation among Haitians living in the Diaspora.

  • Describe the waves of Haitian migration to the U.S. and their impact on the psychosocial adaptation of Haitian individuals and families.
  • Identify the challenges and opportunities faced by second generation Haitians and Haitian Americans in the development of their identity.
  • Illustrate coping strategies that Haitian immigrants have utilized to maintain their cultural heritage, values, belief systems, and religious and spiritual practices.
  • Describe culturally-sensitive interventions to address the complex social, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs of Haitian immigrants in the U.S.
  • Define the factors that can promote positive psychosocial outcomes for Haitian immigrants in the U.S.
Updated 6/12/14

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