Shayna Feuer: Mental Health Research In Jarabacoa

three people in front of white building

It has been almost a week since I arrived in Jarabacoa Dominican Republic. Since I arrived I have been getting to know my small research team here in the hospital, and getting to know the area we are living in. I have been brought to eat delicious food, met the families of two of the people we are working with, who have made us feel so at home, and been to see several beautiful landmarks.

I am here with a research partner who is a master’s student at Mount Sinai Hospital, who is also interested in mental health. Through our study we are hoping to ultimately improve mental healthcare in the Dominican Republic. There is currently only one psychiatrist in Jarabacoa. Though there are several psychologists, it is often too costly for most to afford an appointment with them, or too difficult to get to them. We began implementing our survey this Monday, and have exceeded our daily goal of administering 20 surveys a day, everyday since. The community has been enthusiastic about the work we are doing here, and the people have been very willing to participate which was one of our greatest fears, as this survey has no immediate incentive (ex. monetary compensation). We are implementing the MINI survey, which screens for common mental health disorders including anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse disorder. The survey typically takes between 10 and 25 minutes to administer. We are working along side a family doctor, Dr. Xiomara Fernandez, who has dreams of opening the first mental healthcare center in Jarabacoa. In order to help move her closer to this goal we will be surveying the patient community within the local hospital and local clinics, traveling to community areas in Jarabacoa, and surveying doctors to better understand mental health perception. We hope to survey between four and five hundred people in the 6 weeks we are here.

The hospital we work in every morning.
Some members of the research team
Chickens waiting outside a community home visit
A social worker from the United States who was here for a few days helping us learn the surveying tool
Salto de Jimenoa waterfall