By Marissa Eusebio
As a graduate student, I am continually seeking opportunities that will challenge me and foster my growth as a clinician. Although coming into graduate school I did not have a special interest in global mental health, I came across an opportunity to go on a two-week trip to Croix-des-Bouquet, Haiti in December 2018, focused on providing mental health resources and education to the community. The position was looking for mental health professionals with a master’s level degree and two years of clinical experience, both of which I did not have, and I applied anyways. Needless to say, I was in shock and completely elated when I was offered a position to go on the trip.
During my time in Haiti, I spent my days teaching workshops on leadership and foundational components of mental health with an emphasis on social justice. One of the most impactful moments of the trip was when we worked with members of the Croix-des-Bouquet community to create a mission statement for what they want to state of mental health to look like in the next ten years. To hear the passion for their community while also talking about the struggles that they experience when trying to advocate for the importance of prioritizing mental health was unlike anything I had experienced. In a community riddled with poverty and trauma, the people of Croix-des-Bouquet are passionate about making a positive difference in their community. So frequently we talk about mental health stigma in graduate school courses, but to actually witness the impact that mental health stigma can have on a community was truly impactful.
This was an inspiring experience, one that I hope other mental health professionals pursue, especially graduate students. As a graduate student, we are always learning something, never the one teaching. Standing in front of a crowded workshop, as someone not from their community who did not speak their language, I wondered what I had to offer them. Over the two weeks I spent in Haiti, I learned how much of an impact I can make. Not only was I inspired by the community of Croix-des-Bouquet, but by the end of the workshops people came to me appreciative and grateful for the knowledge gained throughout the workshops.