Webinars & Livestreams
A look at the mental health of Puerto Ricans after the quakes
There are natural and environmental changes such as an increase in the frequency of hurricanes, earthquakes or other natural disasters that are amongst the many issues affecting our global reality. Natural disasters have become commonplace for Puerto Rico and its citizens who, due to their natural neurological activations, can perceive these experiences as highly dangerous, causing them fear, uncertainty, hypervigilance, symptoms of depression and anxiety, among others.
In this workshop, we discussed such natural reactions and how they could lead Puerto Ricans to develop symptoms associated with trauma, if not attended by mental health professionals. The discussion will be framed around scientific data and the experiences of Dr. Bezares-Hernández, the Carlos Albizu University psychology program faculty, and their students.
Dr. Melissa Bezares-Hernández is a Clinical Psychologist and the Clinical Director for the Mayagüez campus of Carlos Albizu University in Puerto Rico, where she’s also a member of the Clinical Psychology Psy.D. faculty and a graduate-level professor for courses such as Advanced Psychotherapy Techniques and Theories and Techniques of Clinical Supervision. Over her career, Dr. Bezares has directly worked with disadvantaged communities, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the LGBTQ community, and issues such as trauma, mood disorders, among others. Dr. Bezares has a passion for treatments based on the third wave of science studies such as Mindfulness Treatment, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and other complementary ones such as Ecotherapy.
Dr. Bezares-Hernández has provided psychological first aid services around the west coast of Puerto Rico to those whose mental stability was impacted by Hurricane Maria (September 2017) and a series of earthquakes (January 2020). Since then, the faculty, students, supervisors and leaders of Carlos Albizu University have continued offering psychological services to towns throughout the south and southwest of the island. These natural disasters have led Puerto Ricans to experience symptoms of acute stress that can be associated with post-trauma, which has led Dr. Bezares and her team to establish a long-term plan to meet the emotional needs of the community.