Haiti Six Months Later: Helping the Mentally Ill and Remembering the Orphans

There are only a handful of psychiatrists to help the most distressed.

ByABC News
July 12, 2010, 2:16 PM

July 12, 2010 — -- Six months after the earthquake ravaged Haiti, the tent cities are swelling and the promised shelters for the homeless are almost non-existent.

Port Au Prince is a scarred city. Its people are scarred too. As ABC News walks through the streets, filled with massive lines of Haitians looking for any food or water, we discover a young man, tied up on the side of the road.

As chaos unfolded around the young man, people told ABC News, quite simply, that he is crazy.

When asked about the decision to tie the young man up, one man told us: "In Haiti, there are a lot of crazy people, they're stealing, they're trying to do something."

Mars and Kline Psychiatric Center

With such desperation in the streets, ABC News went to find the only psychiatric hospital in all of Port Au Prince, the Mars and Kline Psychiatric Center. Inside the hospital, crowded waiting rooms and hallways overwhelmed the lone, exasperated doctor, Dr. Girard Jeanny, who says that what he needs is more help.

Even before the disaster, the hospital, which was founded in 1958, was already strained. When the 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck, the hospital evacuated most of its patients. Some of them have returned, but many others are new patients so distressed by the earthquake, they were brought in by the police, family members or wandered in on their own.

Behind the Bars

Behind the bars of the Mars and Kline Psychiatric Center's locked courtyard ABC News found balloons meant to spread cheer. However beyond the balloons, the phrase "death row" is scratched on the wall.

"Close the gate!" yelled one patient.

Another mentally ill man sat in the courtyard without clothes.

The nurses in training at the hospital said that what those suffering at the hospital need are work, food and jobs.

ABC News talked to one patient at the hospital, a man in his 30s.

"They brought me back," he said. "After the earthquake, there was so much chaos in the streets, it was devastated."

After the earthquake, doctors at the hospital dealt with a crush of people looking for help dealing with the aftermath. For a time, the courtyard became a tent community for not just the mentally ill but others displaced by the disaster.

There are only a handful of psychiatrists in all of Haiti and on the afternoon ABC News visited, there was just one making the rounds there.