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Why does T&T need psychologists?

Monday, October 6, 2014
The challenge for psychology in our twin island republic is to understand ourselves and the impact that our history and individual experiences have had upon our contemporary psyche.

October is Psychology Month and this week is Psychology Week in T&T. The week is hosted by the T&T Association of Psychologists (TTAP) and is themed Spare the Rod, Save the Child. The T&T Guardian is featuring articles from the TTAP that will shed light on the state of mental health awareness. Today’s article is about the role of psychologists in T&T’s national development.

Dr Keith Lequay 

Psychology as a discipline and profession has a seminal role to play in national development and that is because essentially, it is about the health and welfare of human beings. Psychology is the science of why individuals behave as they do, whether individually, based on heredity and organic factors, or upon cultural norms and socialisation. 

Psychologists study people, including their mental functioning and processes, and investigate any antecedents that ultimately shape individual behaviour. As a profession, psychologists also acknowledge that behaviour is often contextual and it operates on a continuum that can range from abnormal to normal. 

One of the primary roles of psychologists therefore is to get our varied publics to look inwardly at themselves and assess their reality, that is, to be introspective. This is not a very welcome assignment for most individuals, groups, organisations, and even nation states. However, to do this requires us to engage with and educate our clients on the wellness benefits of rediscovering these diverse selves, and this is especially so in our multicultural and multi-ethnic environment. 

At our present stage of development in T&T, we can accept these psychological roles through local research, mental health education, engaging with the policy makers, and disseminating information on the factors that shape our unique sensemaking. 

The combination of these activities and engaging more behavioural specialists and psychologists in our schools, public institutions, government ministries, non-governmental organisations and private-sector companies, can do much to help remove the cultural stigma that still abounds about psychology. Our student, graduate and practising psychologists should therefore be engaged at the levels of the society in the shaping public policy and changing attitudes, if we are to reduce and minimise the dysfunctional culture that currently prevails. 

As an association celebrating our tenth year of existence, one of the questions we should consider is the roles we foresee for ourselves as psychologists in the development of the country. The challenge for psychology in our twin-island republic is to understand ourselves and the impact that our history and individual experiences have had upon our contemporary psyche. 

One can easily conclude from the available evidence that ours is a society that is heavily invested in self-denial. That it would take our society 20 years to consider a serious investigation of the 1990 insurrection is but a recent example of this tendency to denial. Ignoring the social alienation that is at the core of our ongoing and widespread anti-social and criminal behaviour is but another manifestation of this inclination. 

As in any recovery process, the commitment and work of the individual is critical in discovering their own healthy balance. Our psychologists can be instrumental in their varied field, by working with local populations to re-energise our communities and by helping them address the societal denial that has become quite commonplace. 

Assuming that the objective is to create a more humane T&T society, our psychologists have their work cut out for them. 

• Keith Lequay, PhD, is an organisational psychologist and honorary member of the T&T Association of Psychologists.


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