Stories of Change

Top: students in Abaco with school supplies given by BPA. Bottom: School counselors in New providence discuss mental health and psychosocial services

The Bahamas Respond to Disaster Through Mental Health Support

After more than two years since Hurricane Dorian in 2019, The Bahamas are working to recover while also coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.  To help these communities, the Bahamas Psychological Association (BPA) is partnering with CWS and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to provide mental health support and disaster relief services. BPA is providing this support and resources to New Providence and the Abaco Islands.

These communities have had to confront both the pandemic and the aftermath of the hurricane.  “It was challenging for them to face another situation when they were still grieving with the first,” said Kennita Saunders, the BPA’s communications coordinator.  “It is crucial to help them understand what they have experienced, but the huge challenge is to break the stigma about mental health,” added Vernelle Swain, the Island Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services Officer for Abaco. 

The project is focusing heavily on community outreach. “We are getting the word out. Who we are, what our services are, and trying to identify the needs on the island,” Vernelle explained. BPA offers these communities educational resources, free individual and group sessions and helplines. 

BPA is also the local implementing partner of the program Ensuring Vulnerable Migrants’ Access to Mental Health Support and Other Essential Disaster Management Services. CWS coordinates this program in partnership with the IOM and BPA.  This year’s activities bring a new opportunity to share and support the migrant community. “We have to be patient to build trust and break the cultural barrier,” Vernelle said. Program activities include trainings, workshops and webinars.  The webinars covered topics like psychological first aid, gender-based violence, self-care, community mapping and drafting emergency plans.  

BPA’s goal is to support these communities and create new spaces for discussions on mental health. “We are now sitting at the table and talking about the protocols and procedures for mental health,” said Kennita. Through this holistic support, communities will have a stronger mental and structural capacity to respond to future disasters.

To learn more, read the full articles here: Dealing with Natural Disasters is a Continuous Learning Process and Raising Awareness of Mental Health in The Bahamas.