Students of psychology have a big role to play in the wellbeing of different communities
Psychology allows us to understand how the body and mind work together, and provides practical skills and professional support to apply this knowledge to improve decision-making processes, effectively cope with daily life stresses, interpret situations from balanced perspectives and ultimately, lead happy and productive lives. Addressing social myths and misconceptions about various physical, mental health and social issues is also the obligation of psychologists.
Status of psychology as a subject in academics in India
Psychology is taught at both undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) levels in as many as 397 universities and colleges across India.
Although there are a number of branches of psychology at the UG level and PG levels, universities mostly focus on two to three areas as specialisation, which include clinical psychology and industrial or organisational behaviour.
In a few universities, health, educational and counselling psychology are taught as a specialisation. There are a number of emerging areas which need the attention of academics for introduction at the PG level, as a specialization, especially to address major emerging challenges in child protection, youth development, prevention of suicide and self-harm, positive psychology and the promotion of resilience among young people, marital relationship counselling and support, correctional psychology, gerontology psychology and rehabilitation psychology.
In India, psychological teaching is mostly confined to classrooms and not much initiative is taken to reach out to the community, especially in the rural areas. There remains a strong need to enhance mental health literacy (MHL) among the general population. The aim of MHL is to disseminate mental health knowledge widely, using non-technical ideas and language, to enable people to identify psychological problems within themselves and others, to adopt effective coping strategies and where necessary, seek professional help.
The number of specialised mental health institutions (NIMHANS, CIP, RINPAS) remains quite limited in India. It is necessary to expand the application of psychology in many fields to enhance the health, well-being, productivity and stability of different communities.
Some specific applications of psychology in different areas
Role of psychology in supporting positive and strong interpersonal relationships, quality parenting and better parent-child relationships:
∙ Pre-marital counselling
∙ Counseling prior to planning for a child
∙ Counselling for quality child rearing
∙ Child and adolescent counselling
∙ Resolving marital conflict
Role of psychology in children’s lives:
Role of psychology in educational institutions:
∙ Sensitising school staff and school administrators regarding child safety
∙ Sensitising teachers and parents about child rights and quality care
∙ Sensitising students about their rights and encouraging the reporting of any form of abuse in schools
∙ Empowering adolescents with knowledge and information about reproduction and sexual health so that they do not indulge in any risk behaviours
∙ Identification and assessment of childhood disorders and disabilities and providing need-based inputs
∙ Providing mental health support services to students who experience academic stress, violence in the family, and abuse
∙ Taking efforts to modify the behaviour of students having issues with their conduct and who depend on substances
∙ Motivating students towards better academic performance and helping them prepare for their examination
∙ Helping students with career counselling using scientifically-made aptitude tests and inventories
∙ Employing psychology skills and practices in selecting applicants who have the aptitude, skills and competency to be a teacher in educational institutions
Role of psychology in public and private organisations:
∙ Helping employers select the right people for suitable positions with the help of psychological screening tools, interview performance and personality assessment
∙ Training/orientation of staff after recruitment in any organisation to identify them with the mission of the organisation
∙ Organising special programmes to motivate the staff towards better performance
∙ Providing mental health support facilities to people working in stressful conditions
∙ Assessing the performance of staff at various levels by examining their records and job profile, for promotion
∙ Resolving the grievances of the staff and improving the employer-employee relationships
Role of psychology in defence:
∙ Assisting in the selection of defence personnel at the entry level with the help of psychological tools
∙ Assessing the performance of scientists at DRDO, at various levels
∙ Providing mental health support for stress management and to overcome feelings of social isolation
∙ Providing mental health support for stress management for personnel at all levels of Indian services, particularly among policemen
Role of psychology in the healthcare sector:
∙ Pre- and post-operative counselling; pre- and post-partum counselling
∙ Counselling of people suffering from terminal diseases and clinically manageable health conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and diabetes
∙ Counselling of family members and/or caregivers for ensuring compliance with doctors
Role of psychology in the lives of elderly people:
∙ Sensitising the younger generation to respect, honour and learn from the elderly people
∙ Utilising life-long experiences of elderly people
∙ Ensuring safety and proper care to elderly people
Role of psychology in social and community development:
∙ Identifying and assessing the causal and contributory factors behind emerging social, economic and psychological problems which adversely affect health and well-being in the community
∙ Assisting policy makers to take up appropriate policies, based on evidence
∙ Developing, testing and implementing intervention programmes at the community level through participatory engagement with key stakeholders
∙ Monitoring and evaluating the impact of psychological services in the community
Role of psychology in the overall wellbeing of people in a community setting:
∙ Conducting mental health literacy programmes through electronic mass media and social media regarding happiness
∙ Practice of yoga, meditation and spirituality for happiness
∙ Dealing with burnout among health professionals
Role of psychology in correctional homes:
∙ Assessing and reducing the stress of the inmates
∙ Organising stress management workshops and other activities for the inmates
∙ Providing mental support in terms of individual and group counselling
∙ Providing family counselling to enhance inmates’ acceptability
Role of psychology in research and documentation:
∙ Multidisciplinary research based on emerging mental, social and health issues
∙ Disseminating knowledge and evidence through publications
∙ Developing educational materials for dissemination of information throughout communities
The way forward
The mental health issue of students is given due emphasis in the New Education Policy and Youth Development Policy 2020 of our country. It is important to translate policy into action in terms of developing appropriate programmes and creating permanent positions in every educational institution for psychologists with a competitive salary package. Hopefully, emphasis on mental health issues in government policies will create more job opportunities for students with a psychology background.
Review of secondary data concerning mental health challenges suffered by the people of India, along with other problems, clearly highlights the need for systematic, evidence-based strategies to improve psychological services and enhance community mental health literacy.
Secondly, introducing psychology as a subject in schools, colleges and universities in both urban and rural areas is the need of the hour. Third, higher learning institutes should offer online and/or offline short-term courses on various aspects of psychology to create ‘para-psychology’ forces, who reach the unreached sections of the country with basic mental health support services.
Fourth, faculties and scholars of psychology should give more emphasis on systematic and quality research on applied issues and publish articles in Scopus Index and/or Impact Factor journals. In turn, research-based evidence will help policy makers take up effective and need-based intervention programmes and also enhance the credibility of the subject before policy makers.
There is also a need to revise the existing curriculum of psychology, both at UG and PG levels, and introducing more specialisations on areas like child protection, youth development, community psychology, positive psychology, rehabilitation psychology and criminology/correctional psychology.
The country needs more trained psychologists during any disaster or pandemic like Covid-19, and they should be working across more sectors of Indian society, including schools, hospitals, community health and social services, aged care, public sector and private industry.
Prof Sibnath Deb is the Director of Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development and an Adjunct Professor at School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Australia
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