Caribbean governments have been advised to follow Montserrat’s example in developing a strategic response to long-term psychosocial needs of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of the population following major disasters.
The advice has come from Dominican consultant psychiatrist, Dr Griffin Benjamin, during a lecture at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Speaking on the topic ‘Tropical Storm Erika: Psychosocial consequences and first respondents’, Dr Benjamin told the audience that the need for such services was highlighted following the passage of the storm, which struck in the early hours of August 27 last year.
“If it is true to say that one in four in the world’s population suffers with a mental illness in their lifetime, then I believe at least one in two Dominicans could have been diagnosed with a mental illness in the immediate aftermath of that storm.
“People were very different after the storm. People would give away everything they had. Nothing mattered anymore. People learnt a lot of lessons from that storm. It wasn’t easy at all for anybody,” he said.
Dr Benjamin, who works with the Governments of Dominica and Montserrat, told the audience that authorities may have overlooked the mental health of the population in the aftermath of Erika. He pointed to the United Kingdom and Montserrat Governments’ response following the eruptions of the SoufriÃ¨re Hills Volcano in 1995 and 1997, when nearly two-thirds of the population migrated due to the damage inflicted on the island.
According to him, the British Government, through its Department for International Development, effectively managed the psychosocial problems created by the disaster by providing special support to the most vulnerable and socially destitute on the island in the wake of the disaster.