Last September, Hurricane Maria hammered the island state of Dominica before moving on to Puerto Rico. It battered the Caribbean, left a significant death toll, colossal damage and shattered lives. The storm damaged nearly every building and profoundly impacted the peace of mind of thousands.
Much physical aid such as clean water, food, medicine and other emergency supplies were needed, but so too were supplies for the less visible effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Severe anxiety, contemplations of suicide and debilitating depression followed after the storm passed. Many of the island residents of Dominica found themselves in a mental health crisis.
At CHRISTUS Health, our mission is to extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. Our Associates live out this mission within and outside the walls of our hospitals and clinics. And, in the case of Dominica, our mission played out in a series of long distance conference calls in which Angela M. MacDonald, an Associate who is trained as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, made a connection with Dominica residents. These residents wanted to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness in their community.
Just as CPR training can help a person with no clinical training assist an individual following a heart attack, Mental Health First Aid training helps a person assist someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
Below is the story of how this important connection was made and how someone can save a life, even if they are thousands of miles away.