Well-being Beyond Aid

How might we provide mental health aid to those affected by natural disasters?

It’s a big question, and one that I set out to solve with two fellow MIT students, Akemi Sato and Kari Stromhaug, along with support from La Victoria Lab and KORU. Together, we developed Libremente, an SMS-based mental health program for survivors of natural disasters.

Natural disasters often bring thoughts of aid to mind, especially in the form of food, shelter, water, and the welfare of loved ones. But disasters are not just logistical crises — they’re mental health crises too. And the effects of mental health crises can be felt long after a disaster takes place, even after individuals have figured out the logistics of food, shelter, and water.

To date, we’ve researched and prototyped Libremente in camps for displaced individuals outside Lima, Peru, and we’re actively refining Libremente for further work in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

We are creating an open source, scalable service that helps displaced individuals address depression and anxiety while they’re in the process of rebuilding their lives.

A group of participants in a pilot of Libremente gathers for a focus group.

Interested in learning more? Feel free to email us at libremente [at] mit [dot] edu.