A two-day workshop on psychological and mental health to identify different kinds of emergencies and their impact especially those common in Ghana has been held in Accra.
The workshop will identify issues of psycho-social and mental health emergencies from a cultural perspective and how to deliver and collaborate with others on psychological first aid.
It is on the theme; psychological and mental health in emergencies and is organised by the Ghana Psychology Council in collaboration with the Psykforum- a Non-Governmental Organisation, promoting psycho-social and mental well-being through life course.
It brought together psychologists, counsellors, para professionals seeking to promote mental health and social wellbeing of all, to discuss issues that affect the vulnerable in crisis and emergencies situation and what could be done to alleviate their pain and impact.
Topics discussed were; emergency-types common in Ghana and their effects-physical, social psychological, training in emergencies, psychological first aid, what, who when, where, psychological first aid helping responsibility-prepare and psychological first aid action principles.
Madam Vivian .A. Aubyn of the Ghana Psychology Council said the work of psychologists was important in times of emergencies and the Council and the Psykforum was seeking to be included in the national emergency response plan because the impact of such crisis on victims needed to be managed by professional psychologists and Counsellors.
Speaking on the topic; Crisis Intervention Counselling, Rev Dr Dinah Baah-Odoom, Registrar of the Council said, there were four types of crisis, grief, suicidal, family and anxiety crisis, adding that, the individual by nature was exposed to a number of challenges in life, some of which developed into the crisis with time, hence the need for a number of interventions to overcome them.
She noted that all human beings, at some time in life, witnessed or experienced crisis situations such as loss of a loved one, drug induced crisis, inability to cope with life situations, a family crisis, an interpersonal crisis.
“A crisis then is an intolerable situation, which must be resolved, for it has the potential to cause the psycho-social deterioration of the person,” she indicated. Rev Dr Baah-Odoom said this state of crisis was characterised by a loss of orientation, a disequilibrium of the intrapsychic forces, and profound feelings of confusion, alienation, disruption, and panic.
When the crisis client presents himself to the Counsellor, he exhibits an emotional turbulence that may inadvertently be induced in the Counsellor, in the manner of contagion. The Counsellor must be effective at such times, remain calm and poised, she noted.
According to Rev Dr Baah-Odoom, the therapeutic phase of the treatment depended on the nature of the specific crisis.
“In a crisis brought about by grief, the Counsellor must help the client to get through the grief work; in a family crisis, the Counsellor must help the client understand the nature of the family crisis; in an anxiety crisis, the Counsellor must determine the source of the problem and use object-oriented questions to help the client to come to grips with it.
“In a suicidal crisis, the counsellor must allow the client full expression of his feelings, determine if a method of destruction has been arrived at, experience the hopelessness along with the client, and request a temporary postponement of his plans.
In all these cases, the Counsellor must be willing and emotionally stable enough to experience along with the client, the fears and frustrations that the inevitably accompany a crisis situation. He must react empathically and honestly, but with enough self-control and emotional detachment to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the difficulty of the crisis.
She however cautioned counsellors not to assure clients that everything would be well, but should help with information to help them take decisions that will help them get some relief from their situations.
Rev Dr Baah-Odoom emphasised the need for psychologists to be called in times of crisis to help victims to overcome their traumas through counselling, adding that the workshop to develop the professional skills in counselling was long overdue.
She expressed readiness of the Council to work closely with institutions like the National Disaster Management Organisation to provide counselling to victims of natural disasters noting that once you identify a person in this situation you provide help.
She noted that there were three types of emergencies which are; dangers to life, dangers to health and dangers to the environment saying, Ghana needed to factor in psychological interventions in emergency response.