Ghana Psychology Council, The PsyKForum prepare to provide Mental Health services during emergencies
To make a strong case for the need for government to consider the integration of mental health emergency response into the country’s disaster management plan, the Ghana Psychology Council (GPC) and The PsyKForum, a Non-Governmental Organization that promotes Psychosocial and Mental Wellbeing through the Life Course have joined forces to equip counsellors to be ready for the task ahead.
A two-day Continuous Professional Development forum in Accra saw experts including Psychologists, Paraprofessionals and Lay counsellors discuss the significance of Psychological-Mental health in Emergencies’ which bordered on knowing common emergencies in Ghana and their impact.
Participants were also taken through topics such as identifying issues of psychosocial and mental health in emergencies from a cultural perspective, knowing how to undertake psychological and psychiatric triaging in emergencies, being able to deliver and or collaborate with others on Psychological First Aid, among others.
In an interview with the Registrar for the Ghana Psychology Council, Dr. Dinah Baah-Odoom on the sidelines of the forum, she observed that mental health counselling has been missing in Ghana’s emergency or trauma management for far too long.
She said, victims of disasters, either than being affected physically, are also tortured psychologically, a reason mental health counselling must be recommended.
“People who become victims need psychological interventions but nobody even talks about it. So we’re trying to equip the counsellors with certain basic skills so that incase they’re confronted with issues of trauma, they’ll know how to help these people,” she noted.
She added, “When there’s an incident of road accident or flood, we should know that the affected person is not psychologically the same so you need to refer the person to see a Psychologist.”
The GPC Registrar stressed that, the physical response to trauma as done by the National Disaster Management Organisation, the Ghana National Fire Service and other emergency management bodies is not enough, and urged government to factor in psychological counselling to take care of the mental health aspect of trauma which affects both the victims’ behaviour and overall wellbeing.
“They should factor in psychological interventions or mental health emergency response because the physical one is not enough. When physically you’re okay, psychologically you may not be okay at all. You can’t sleep in the night, you’re getting nightmares, palpitations and you’re not able to perform. If you’re a student your performance goes down, if you’re working, you can’t work. I think it’s not all about the physical, the greater need is even for the psychological interventions,” Dr. Dinah Baah-Odoom reiterated.
A Board member of The PsyKForum, Vivian N.A Aubyn, noted that Ghana has only focused on the physical aspect of disasters including provision of shelter and food for the victims and has done little in ensuring the mental wellbeing of victims of disasters.
“Look at the accident that happened on the Kintampo road, the people that were involved, the witnesses and even the community in which it happened. What is the psychological impact on them? These are what we’re looking at,” she stated.
She explained that, the forum is organised to bring together psychological services providers to dialogue on how to come up with a policy framework that can be linked into the national framework for attending to emergencies, with a focus on mental health.
According to Madam Vivian Aubyn who happened to be one of the resource persons at the forum, “Mental health isn’t all about illness. We’re not talking about only people who are have a mental illness but we’re talking about you and I/ about everyday people. How do we ensure our psychological wellbeing so that in case something happens we’ll be able to stand, so it is important that we build our resilience so that when adversities come we will be able to stand and not tip over the edge.”