We once again find ourselves at the point where we reflect on how quickly another fulfilling but challenging year has passed in our personal, organisational and institutional lives. 2019 – the last year at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, and PsySSA’s 25th anniversary year – has been an opportunity for deep contemplation on our past, as well as a moment for pondering the prospects and possibilities of our future as an organisation.

Global events over the last year have shown that the world is both in a state of precarity, but also reveling in the promise of a better world for all.  On the one hand, we see political instability, terror, the rise of right-wing conservatism, the heightened regulation of human mobility, a global climate crisis, and social protests at the growing polarisation and inequality in the world today.  On the other hand, new organic social movements that are pursuing equity and social justice are replacing old political formations of the 20th century, and the opportunities of the 4th Industrial Revolution are yielding a set of potentialities for all of humankind.

Closer to home as a country, we have struggled with a flailing economy, the legacy of mal-administered state-owned enterprises, growing inequality and its attendant sequelae, and deep questions about the role of the citizenry, the importance of renewing leadership, and the defense of democratic values and principles.

As the most representative, organised, professional and learned society of South African Psychology, PsySSA has had a challenging year as it has attempted to grapple with these global, continental and national issues and connect psychological science to these debates. Simultaneously, it has focused on driving a vision of what a relevant and socially just psychology for the 21st century should embody in South Africa, on the continent, and across the world.

I am deeply indebted to all of the members of PsySSA for demonstrating a confidence in me as I stepped into the position of President of PsySSA in September 2019.  I am also thankful for the support of all members of Council, the Presidency, the newly elected executive, divisions, standing committees, and the PsySSA office staff, for their continued commitment to our collective vision.

During 2019, we formally adopted the strategic plan at our September AGM and have begun a process of operationalising this plan for the next several years. PsySSA made a significant contribution to the debates and detail on National Health Insurance in South Africa, as we continue to support the principle of universal health coverage. Similarly, we have kept abreast of developments around Scope of Practice and the related category of neuropsychologists in South Africa, and will continue to watch this space. Of course, we remain at the leading edge of psychological knowledge production by endorsing various books and robustly supporting our journals in the form of the SAJP and AJOPA.  Our 25th annual congress, titled Africa’s Imaginaries, Psychology’s Futures, was an immense success.  It was an opportune moment to reflect on PsySSA’s historical origins and trajectories over the past 25 years through the perspectives of Past Presidents, and to recommit ourselves to a future of relevance, social justice and the betterment of all humanity. PsySSA was also superbly represented at the XVI European Congress of Psychology in Moscow, the American Psychological Association Convention in Chicago, and continues to have a bold presence inside bodies such as PAPU and IUPsyS.  During 2019 we built networks with other representative organisations in the mental health sector in South Africa, in alignment with our approach to embrace plural organisational representivity.

As we contemplate 2020, there are a number of key undertakings that we as an organisation will pursue.  Internally, we will continue to operationalise our strategic plan early in the New Year, and identify key priority areas of focus. We will continue to monitor and engage matters relating to the National Health Insurance and Scope of Practice.  More importantly, we will endeavour to vigorously pursue networks and collaborations with others in the mental health sector, for the advancement of quality mental health access for all South Africans. In terms of our vision, we will be guided by nothing less than a view of South African psychology, that is aligned with global knowledge production trends, but is epistemologically located in Africa; that is relevant; that is driven by social justice imperatives; and seeks to advance overall population well-being. More specifically, a focus on youth mental health will be critical in 2020 and beyond, but there will no doubt be other big issues to contemplate. Psychology’s relationship to technology and big data will be critical in both areas of research and therapeutics. We will have to consider how we more deliberately insert our discipline/profession into the global climate crisis debate, into questions of equity, the reduction of polarization, and how we continue to think about global citizenship, leadership and the bolstering of democracy’s dividends.  PsySSA will embrace its mandate of lobbying and advocating for mental health for all in South Africa over this period. Where our divisions are active we will continue to energetically support them, and where they have had less traction, we will reinvigorate them. The remits of our standing committees are being redefined so that they are fit for purpose in an organisational structure that will of necessity have to become increasingly decentralised in the fulfilling of its mandate and in the growth of the organisation. In terms of our relationships with global partners, we anticipate a significant representation at both the ICCP in Melbourne in 2020, and the ICP in Prague in 2020, where we hope to strengthen our ties with partners in both the global north and the global south.

Whilst some may view the current historical period as a troubling and vexing moment in which our darkest fears may be realized, I invite you all not to be overwhelmed, but instead to rise to these challenges and to recommit to a world that can benefit all of humanity.

There is a great deal of work to do in the year ahead, both on existing and new initiatives. I look forward to drawing on the exceptional skills of our members and working alongside all of you as we realize our vision as PsySSA.

Finally, on behalf of the PsySSA Council, Executive and Office, I thank all PsySSA members for their support, and wish you and your loved ones a peaceful, enjoyable and safe holiday season in which you destock your 2019 priorities and also restock your energies for 2020.

Garth Stevens

December 2019

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