Strategies for assessing mental health in Haiti: LocaL instrument development and transcultural translation

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Transcultural Psychiatry








depression; function; Haiti; idioms of distress; mental health screening


The lack of culturally appropriate mental health assessment instruments is a major barrier to screening and evaluating efficacy of interventions. Simple translation of questionnaires produces misleading and inaccurate conclusions. Multiple alternate approaches have been proposed, and this study compared two approaches tested in rural Haiti. First, an established transcultural translation process was used to develop Haitian Kreyòl versions of the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). This entailed focus group discussions evaluating comprehensibility, acceptability, relevance, and completeness. Second, qualitative data collection was employed to develop new instruments: the Kreyòl Distress Idioms (KDI) and Kreyòl Function Assessment (KFA) scales. For the BDI and BAI, some items were found to be nonequivalent due to lack of specificity, interpersonal interpretation, or conceptual nonequivalence. For all screening tools, items were adjusted if they were difficult to endorse or severely stigmatizing, represented somatic experiences of physical illness, or were difficult to understand. After the qualitative development phases, the BDI and BAI were piloted with 31 and 27 adults, respectively, and achieved good reliability. Without these efforts to develop appropriate tools, attempts at screening would have captured a combination of atypical suffering, everyday phenomena, and potential psychotic symptoms. Ultimately, a combination of transculturally adapted and locally developed instruments appropriately identified those in need of care through accounting for locally salient symptoms of distress and their negative sequelae. © 2013, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.

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