In the Haitian culture, depression is viewed as a taboo topic. Some believe depression is made up or an exaggeration of negative feelings. Many think that "Haitians aren't depressed" or "depression is not a Haitian problem."
Depression and Stigma in The Haitian Culture
Depression is by definition associated with social dysfunction and major personal suffering, and globally linked to precarious socio-political and economic conditions.
In Haiti, there is a distinction between "depression" to mean discouragement and "mental depression" as understood by Western psychiatry. Depression places a heavy psychological burden on the patient's caregivers and the patient himself, and can be associated with shame in the face of community support, due to the stigma surrounding it. When an individual experiences repeated psychotic episodes and their functioning is disrupted, they can be characterized as insane and considered to be definitely dysfunctional. His cognitive ability and judgment may never be reliable again, even after a long period of remission.
The Use of the Term "Moun Fou" in The Haitian Community
The term "Moun Fou" in Haitian context is a ready-made expression, used wrongly and through, or even a lack of language. This is due to the level of education of the population and the absence of a mental health policy in the country. In Haitian culture, an individual with an episode of any neurological disorder (depression, anxiety, or addiction to psychoactive substances) is considered insane. On the other hand, many Haitians qualify as "Moun Fou" often by extension, any person having thought or acted clumsily, without the term having anything to do with a pathology. It is important to understand the context of the term "Moun Fou" in Haitian society.
Postpartum Depression in Haitian Women
A couple of years ago, I was curious about postpartum depression in Haitians so I asked someone who works with pregnant women through the non-profit organization Midwives For Haiti.
Q: Can you tell me about the prevalence of depression in Haitian women during pregnancy and post partum?
A: "It is not in our screening process at the pre-postnatal screenings in Haiti- largely because we have no one to refer them to to get help and medications are not available or difficult to get for treatment. And we have no research about this.
Personally, my guess is that it is a huge problem because mothers have so little, have to work so hard to just have food and water for themselves, are worried all the time about their children dying, have already lost children, etc.
We are about to do the class on PP depression/anxiety and will ask the students what they know about it. We know of Haitian women who are depressed because of their behavior. Recently a midwife had a baby with cleft palate that died about a week later of aspiration and she just laid on her bed for months. Finally went back to work after 3 months but not because she was ready."
The Importance of Mental Health Across The Island of Haiti
Nowadays, there is an increase in mental disorders in Haiti. The country lacks a planned mental health policy according to the needs of the population, especially at a troubling time when poverty, instability and insecurity have reached their peak. Moreover, the budget allocated to mental health represents less than 1% of the overall budget reserved for public health.
Mental health is extremely neglected and ignored by the authorities when it should be the most representative in the fight to protect citizens and help them maintain full mental well-being, because according to WHO forecasts, neurological disorders are the second leading cause of death in the world.
A friend of The Real Haiti Marie Valsaint, Founder and CEO of Haitians Thrive, provided us with a Development and Validation of a Haitian Creole Screening Instrument for Depression by Andrew Rasmussen, et. al. This document is useful to those trying to identify, diagnosis and treat mental illness, especially depression in the Haitian community.
Do you have any research on depression in the Haitian culture that you'd love to share? Please let us know and we'd love to support you and our community.
Today we were making soup joumou for Haitian Independence Day and my husband said, babe, did you get the yam?! I said, yes, I got all of the 9,000 ingredients for the soup! After many years of preparing soup joumou with him, I still in fact forgot the yam he was talking about. It's the one in the pic to the left after he went to get it from the store if you're wondering.
The point of this isn't to make fun of myself to you, but to wish you a Happy Haitian Independence Day and a Happy New Year! As we all faced many challenges in 2020, there is always hope for better days ahead.
I had all intensions of posting a recipe along with beautifully curated pictures, but there are so many amazing soup joumou recipes online that I collected for you here.
I hope you're enjoying your day with family, eating soup and relaxing! Tag us in your soup pics on social media! Here's the one we made...
“The Comfort of Receiving Goodies from a Haitian Mother” by Shaina Louis, Manman Kiskeya
Shaina is an intelligent young woman who has a natural entrepreneurial spirit. Shaina reached out to me on Instagram inquiring about some of our digital products. Since then, we've kept in touch on socials and I just had to share one of her projects here with you!
If you're like Shaina, the comfort of Manman is everything, especially when it comes to Haitian food. When she was away at college, she was feeling home sick and came up with the idea to create these boxes full of Haitian goodies and products that bring back a sense of nostalgia. You can read her full story and see what else she has for sale on her site.
Our box by Manman Kiskeya included:
Thank you Shaina for the box that you sent to us! My husband and I had a great time hanging out eating the Haitian snacks while I listened to childhood stories he told.
In 2010, husband and wife team, Endy and Diana, started The Real Haiti travel blog to show the world the other side of Haiti through their experiences. Now parents of 2 young boys, the couple has expanded The Real Haiti to include teaching resources on Haiti and the Haitian culture.
We are a husband and wife team who live in Florida with our two boys. We started traveling to Haiti regularly over a decade ago and The Real Haiti blog was born in 2012. We were selected as winners of the former Minister of Tourism's rebranding contest with the slogan, "Experience It" or "Se La Pou'w La!" We were given a plaque by former President Michel Martelly and attended a special ceremony to launch the official logo and slogan.
The mission of The Real Haiti has always been to educate others about Haiti and all of the amazing things that she has to offer. Because the news generally focuses on the negative, we were motivated to start sharing encouraging pictures, videos, stories and memories about Haiti. While we still share the beauty of Haiti, The Real Haiti has become much more than sharing pretty pictures.
The Real Haiti has become the missing link between you and Haiti. We are industry leaders in connecting you to people, places and things in Haiti! Need a photographer in Haiti for hire? Don't know where to start in planning a trip to Haiti? Not sure how to ethically import goods for your business? We can help!
Who is The Real Haiti for?
We are so passionate about sharing the Haitian culture with you. Let's work together to show the world The Real Haiti!
Watch Haitian Comedian Se Joe
Get your family together and watch SeJoe's live stand-up special, Nou Chaje ak Pwoblèm, on Amazon Prime.
SeJoe is a hilarious Haitian-American comedian who lives in New York. "Nou Chaje ak Pwoblèm" (We Got A Lot of Problems) is a one-hour stand-up comedy performance, written and produced by Sejoe. It is rooted in Haitian folklore traditions that emphasize the politics of both Haiti and America, the importance of language and the contradictions of religion.
Free for Amazon Prime members! Congrats to Sejoe on this huge accomplishment!
When I met my husband Endy (then-boyfriend), he would tell me all about Haiti. He would tell me stories about growing up with his siblings, his best friends. He would tell me about the journeys they had to get to school, the funny stories of dressing up in their parents clothes and the soccer games they played on the roof of their house. He would tell me how beautiful "The Real Haiti" was. I mostly just listened, and quietly doubted that a place I always heard was a "third world country," could be beautiful.
What? You're going to Haiti on vacation!?
It took years of convincing to plan a trip to Haiti...7 years actually! Endy planned everything for our 10 day adventure. Although I was excited, my worried mind kept playing questions over in my head like, "what if we can't find water to drink?" and "what if we get TB or yellow fever?" As I type these ridiculous things (that I never actually said out loud), I can't even believe I thought such judgmental things about a place I'd end up falling in love with!
As an innocent Italian-American, red-headed, 28-year-old, I really had no clue what Haiti was really like. I had no clue that visiting Haiti would change my life. As our vacation plans neared, I secretly wanted to back out or hoped for some reason we weren't going to end up going (sad, but true).
The time came and we flew from Florida to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. My life was forever changed and my eyes and heart were opened like they had never been before. For more of an in depth look about what I saw and experienced, read my blog about things I noticed while in Haiti. Before my first trip, my husband encouraged me to start a blog about Haiti to share what we saw. I wasn't fully on board with the idea, but I did. When I was there and then returned home is when I started blogging about all-things-Haitian and really fell in love with the idea of blogging. I embraced the culture and through my experiences, I had to share all of the amazing things that were so new to me.
Since I started The Real Haiti, Endy and I got married and have two little boys now! Although we don't get to travel to Haiti as much anymore (adulting too much), promoting the Haitian culture, food, people and life in Haiti is still my passion! I couldn't find one place online with resources for teaching kids about Haiti and Haitian Creole so I created my own for my boys and am sharing it with you!
The Real Haiti has a kids section (there's also a tab above) where you can find a variety of resources to teach your kids or students about Haiti
What's new with The Real Haiti
After developing a variety of digital resources about Haiti that focus on cultural education and celebration, we evolved into a membership style resource center called The Real Haiti Academy. You can now enjoy the option of a "pay what you can" model starting at $0. You have the option to pay $0, $15, $25, $50 or $99. No matter how much you pay, you will be getting the same access to the membership with all of the digital resources.
As a member of TRHA, you’ll connect with a community of Haiti lovers who are passionate about keeping the Haitian culture alive. Be proud of your (or your family's) heritage. Encourage multicultural diversity as you're raising your children at home and in your community.
Find out exactly what's included in The Real Haiti Academy.
In this time of uncertainty, one thing I am certain about is that I am not in control of anything. God is in control. I have been given a God-given talent and passion to develop this website and these resources. This is how I am sharing with my digital community who has supported The Real Haiti in one way or another.
"My family and I love exploring, learning about and celebrating our Haitian heritage through The Real Haiti Academy. Our 9-month old son loves the songs, videos & virtual field trip - and the resources keep coming. We're looking forward to using more of the resources as he grows. It's even been fun for my husband to have Creole resources (rather than French). Such an awesome tool! - Kara Jeudy
While all of this started as a fear of Haiti, then a love for Haiti, it's now my business and a huge part of my life. I am so grateful for all of you for following my page for all of these years. Lastly, thank you always for your encouragement! Happy anniversary of The Real Haiti blog and business. Mesi anpil!!!
If you're new to The Real Haiti, sign up below to subscribe to the blog!
Blog post updated 7/26/20 - eight year anniversary of The Real Haiti as a business.
The stigma of "mental health issues" continues to be a fight in the United States. So many are doing a great job in raising awareness by speaking out about their challenges when it comes to a variety of mental health topics like postpartum depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, etc.
What about people in Haiti or of Haitian decent who suffer from mental health issues?
When it comes to speaking up about mental health concerns in the Haitian culture, it's often shut down, laughed at or simply made an excuse for certain "behaviors." Thankfully with education and understanding, now more than ever, people of Haitian decent are recognizing the importance of mental health.
Marie Valsaint is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Alliant University (San Diego). She's conducting a study and is looking for a participant for research regarding early childhood separation. Please see the flyer below and contact her for more info or to participate! Thanks so much, Marie, for your work on mental health in the Haitian community.
Marie also runs an Instagram page @haitiansthrive.
Haitian Flag Day is celebrated every May 18th during the month of Haitian Heritage Month. Haitian Flag Day is huge in the Haitian community and it is observed in Haiti and all over the United States. The meaning behind Haitian Flag Day is to commemorate the Haitian slave revolt, which led to Haiti being the first independent black nation!
Here are some Haitian Flag Day activities and ideas to teach about Haiti's independence
May is here and it is Haitian Heritage Month! Here is a list of Haitian Heritage Month events in South Florida:
Palm Beach County Haitian Heritage Month events -
Broward/Miami Dade County Haitian Heritage Month events -
If you don't live in South Florida or your area doesn't have any organized events, we have tons of resources on this website about Haiti and the Haitian culture like tourism, culture, food and so much more. We also have an eWorkbook, free printable worksheets and memberships full of great Haitian culture info!
Happy Haitian Heritage Month!
Listen below to an amazing podcast interview with Michel and his journey in the clairin (alcohol) business in Haiti.
Export business man in Port-au-Prince who went back to his homeland in Saint-Michel, Haiti to take over his family's business at a clairin distillery - The Spirit of Haiti. If you've ever wondered how this rum is made, check out their production process (with photos!)
This is The Real Haiti. This is why I had a fire lit under me the first time I went to Haiti. And this is why I continue to blog passionately about Haiti and the amazing things happening there. Every day, hardworking people, living life in Haiti...The Real Haiti.
Original podcast story posted here.