The Counselling Centre, has organized a two-day Mental Health and Wellness Week programme for staff and students of the University Community under the theme: “Speak Up, Speak Out: Changing our Conversation on Mental Health.”
The Director, Counselling Centre, Rev. Fr. Dr. Anthony Nkyi, stated that the Centre’s core responsibility in University is to assist students to excel in their academic work because success could not be achieved without a good mental health. He noted, “The importance of this programme cannot be overemphasised because the mind can be described as the headquarters of the individual and if it becomes unwell, the consequences can be devastating.” Rev. Fr. Nkyi indicated that it was based on this reason that the Centre deemed it necessary to join in the promotion and awareness creation of the importance of the well-being of the mind.
The Director said that the aim of the programme was to sensitize staff, students and the entire University Community to support mental health awareness by being ‘agents of positive change’ and by ‘speaking up and speaking out’ threats to their mental well-being. He was also hopeful that the programme would help arrest the stigma meted out to persons living with mental health problems.
The Provost, College of Education Studies, Prof. Ernest Kofi Davis, in his address said that the state of the mind of every individual was a key determinant of the level of productivity of each person. He added, “The psychological and emotional well-being of staff of any organisation is the key to the attainment of the vision and mission of that organisation.” He explained that for the University's vision to be achieved for innovative teaching, research, outreach and professional development, it would need both staff and students with psychological and emotional well-being.
Prof. Davis, who also represented the Vice-Chancellor, noted that mental health has become a major concern on university campuses around the world and in recent times the cases of mental health issue reported at the Counselling Offices and the Centre in this University was overwhelming. The Provost said, "This could be attributed to how students are challenged to cope with academic, relationship, financial and other social demands encountered during their studies and carrier plans after graduation." He stated that these and many more stressors which were experienced by students could lead to lower academic performance, examination anxiety, examination malpractice, depression, social isolation, suicidal thoughts and attempts. He urged students to develop the ability to deal with stress in their academic endeavours because that was the key to their academic success and well-being.
Prof. Davis said there was the need to occasionally create such platforms to discuss issues relating to the mental health of students. He was hopeful that the campaign would create awareness about the dangers associated with this growing but preventable menace. He advised students to visit the University's Counselling Centre, which is staffed with professionals, to assist staff and students that might have any mental health issues. The Provost remarked, "Don't die in silence, speak up, speak out. Let's altogether change our conversation on mental health."
The Guest Speaker, a Clinical Psychologist at 37th Military Hospital, Accra, Dr. Erica Danfrekua Dickson, indicated that everyone has one way or the other been affected by mental health problems or conditions before and would continue to experience it. Dr. Dickson noted that people with mental health conditions were usually disregarded and stigmatised in our society and therefore called for the appropriate measures to be put in place to help destigmatise or address the issue. Dr. Dickson urged staff and students to take very good care of themselves and maintain positive mindedness in their daily activities, conversations and relationships. The Clinical Psychologist acknowledged the effort of the Centre in its campaign to alert the University Community on mental health issues and appealed to the to create an inclusive and supportive mechanism to help address existing cases. Dr. Dickson urged the University to involve the other stakeholders to support staff and students in order to realise productivity and sustainable academic success. She appealed to policy makers to effectively operationalise policies on mental health issues.
The Guest Speaker recommended that academia should develop research interest in mental health issues because it was one of the areas with huge research gap. She advised staff and students to visit the Counselling Centre whenever the need arose. "We must not blame people but encourage them to seek help. When you find your friends or peers having mental health problems, speak up to them and encourage them to seek appropriate support," Dr. Dickson said.
The Director, Directorate of University Health Services (DUHS), Dr. Evans Ekanem, commended the Centre for their effort and initiative to create awareness on mental health in the University community. He urged staff and students to seek counselling and guidance from the Centre for all their professional, academic, psychological and emotional problems anytime the need arose. The Director charged stakeholders to include mental health at all levels of curriculum designs and programmes in schools. Dr. Ekanem, who chaired the function, advised both staff and students to, "Be wise and use your time wisely, carefully, socially and psychologically for the benefit of your mental well-being."
In attendance were Prof. (Mrs.) Linda D. Forde, Prof. Godwin Awabil, Prof. Josuah Omotosho, and Dr. (Mrs.) Rita Adzovie. Others were Dr. Stephen Doh Fia, Mr. Eugene Kwarteng Nantwi, staff and students.