Monday, February 8, 2010

"NEW ROUTES TO COMMUNITY HEALTH" -- DISPELLING "TET CHARGE" AND OTHER PROBLEMS



"Tet charge," I just learned, is a Haitian Creole expression for "a lot of problems in your head," as Renald Raphael puts it. Perhaps "overload" would be another way of translating it. Raphael works with Twa Zanmi (Three Friends), a community health program for Haitians in the Boston area. And "tet charge" is how he says (in this video) many Haitian immigrants explain away their depression and anxiety. "People will continue to work, do their business, it is a way of life." In other words, it's just "tet charge" -- as if that were a normal state of affairs. And since mental health is such a taboo issue among Haitians, says Raphael, few will discuss it. That's why his group is producing a telenovela, or soap opera, to get in under the radar of viewers. It's harder to protest when you're being entertained, rather than lectured to or evaluated. (The work-in-progress doesn't seem to have quite the high-pitched drama of, say, General Hospital; but then, what do I know? I don't speak the language, and there are no subtitles. Besides, I don't think General Hospital has a psych ward.)

Twa Zanmi is one of eight groups around the country that comprise "New Routes to Community Health," an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Benton Foundation that brings together immigrant, media, and other community-based organizations to improve immigrants' health. They work on everything from domestic violence, to gang activity, to mental health, to STDs and other questions -- among Latino youth, or elderly Vietnamese, or Somalis of any age.  Depends on the project. Another effort is "Project Salud," a group of Latino youth in Chicago who create these funky telenovelas of their own, as the video above details. The young actors seem to relish jumping into these thoroughly soapy circumstances and into the characters they are given to play. I can't blame 'em. Being somebody else for a little bit might just do the trick to dispel tet charge. Or more.

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