Professor Joseph Ghartey Ampiah, Vice Chancellor, University of Cape Coast (UCC), has called on Government to engage the services of psychologists in the national development process.
He said a research conducted by some members of the Ghana Psychological Association (GPA) has documented that, about seven per cent of Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was lost due to psychological distress or common mental health conditions.
He said given the number of psychiatrists, clinical health psychologists, counselling psychologists, industrial-organisational psychologists and related applied psychology professionals in the mainstream primary healthcare system, it was no wonder that the treatment gap of expected mental disorders in the country stood at 98 per cent.
Prof Ampiah said this in a speech read on his behalf at the Continuous Professional Development (CPD) Seminar in Cape Coast.
It was organised by the GPA on the theme; “Psychology in Ghana: History, Law and Ethics of the Profession,” and aimed at strengthening and updating its members on new trends of treatments and practice.
Prof Ampiah said if psychologists could be placed in every area of development both in the public and private sector, this gap would be bridged significantly.
“It is important that we feel the impact of these industrial and organisational psychologists in the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, the Office of the Head of Civil Service, Public Services Commission, and National Labour Commission,” he said.
Prof Ampiah said the security services could not be left out, saying, they could use the help of forensic, counselling, and clinical psychologists during a time in the country where kidnapping, vigilantism and such unwanted behaviours seem to plague many in the society.
The Vice Chancellor said with such interventions, the health and wellbeing of Ghanaians as defined by the World Health Organisation “a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease” would be better accomplished.
Dr Erica D. Dickson, GPA President, said that among the Association’s goals is to maximise the impact of the practice of the profession by availing to the public its services and to collaborate with Ghana Psychology Council (GPC) for professional training.
To be responsible for certification of individuals who seek to apply for membership, promote the professional development of its members as well as assisting the GPC to ensure that the established ethical standards were adhered to in practice.
Dr Ama Kyerewa Edwin, Head of Department, Psychological Medicine and Mental Health at the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, also underscored the need for psychologists to know their limits and seek additional training or supervision when necessary.
She said with issues regarding ethics particularly, confidentiality, no identifiable information about clients should appear on shared documents.
Prof Seth Oppong, a lecturer at William V. S. Tubman University, Liberia, said for a discipline to be relevant it had to address the specific needs of the people who made up the society, and not using approaches and concepts that were borrowed.
He said they have to become contextualized to explain why things happen, hence the need to develop a discipline of psychology that responds to the needs of the society.
Dr Collins Badu Agyemang, GPA Vice President and a lecturer at the Department of Psychology, University of Ghana, warned the public against the patronage of the services of charlatan counsellors and other service providers.
He implored the broadcast media houses to validate the licensure status of every applicant who comes on air claiming to be a counsellor.
He said, “the utterances of some so called “counsellors” are so appalling, offensive and could lead to what I call ‘psychological diarrhoea”.
To avoid aggravating our social challenges, he urged the general public to refrain from succumbing to untrained and unlicensed practitioners.
Among dignitaries present at the seminar were Madam Vivian N. A. Aubyn, Representative of Ghana Psychology Council; Prof Joseph Kwasi Essuman, Founder and first Director of the UCC Counselling Centre; Prof. Linda Djama Forde, Former Executive of GPA and Dr Kofi Krafona, Former Member of the first Ghana Psychology Council.