Cincinnati, Ohio — Since February 2022, millions of Ukrainians have left their homeland with trauma and emotional distress from the effects of war. While mental health services from host countries are helping, NGOs are working hard to provide additional mental health support to Ukrainian refugees.
Ukrainian refugees in numbers
As of December 6, 2022, approximately 7.8 million Ukrainians (mainly women and children) are scattered across Europe, with Germany and Poland each hosting over one million refugees.
As of July 2022, about 2 million Ukrainians have been forcibly deported to Russia and endured human rights abuses along the way, according to a study conducted by the Associated Press. and has more than 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees within its borders.
War refugees and mental health
War-induced traumatic events such as violence, loss of loved ones, rape, family separation, and loss of belonging are at risk for psychiatric conditions such as depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). increase the
According to the World Health Organization, even before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, 30% of Ukrainians suffered from mental health conditions. The effects of war can exacerbate existing mental health conditions. CARE International estimates that about 33% of Ukrainian refugees develop anxiety, depression, or PTSD as a result of the conflict.
Child refugees and mental health
War trauma has a great impact on children. A review of 22 studies of mental health among young refugees in high-income countries by Bronstein and Montgomery found that the prevalence of PTSD “ranged from 19% to 54%, with an average of 36% across the sample.” understood. And for depression, “the prevalence ranged from 3% to 30%, with an average of 18%.”
Children may also develop dissociative disorders, such as depersonalization, derealization, and paralysis, and behavioral disorders, such as aggression and violent criminal behavior. It can take away the time needed for processing and self-healing. Trauma can also cause children to regress in age-appropriate behaviors and struggle to carry out normal daily activities.
mental health and poverty
Mental health and poverty are closely related. “Poverty is associated with unstable income and spending. The resulting worry and uncertainty can exacerbate mental health,” explains a study by Matthew Ridley et al. Declining health impacts the ability to make responsible financial decisions, increases the likelihood of contracting other chronic diseases, and drives up healthcare costs.
In addition, access to community services and support can be difficult for people with mental health problems, especially refugees in new settings, due to stigma and difficulty navigating the system.
A registry-based study conducted by Jonas Minet Kinge and colleagues in Norway between 2008 and 2016 found that children born into poor families were several times more likely to have mental disorders than those born into wealthy families. double the price.
Children born into poverty are at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse, and are more likely to lack nutritious food, quality day care and health care. A parent’s mental illness can adversely affect a child’s “cognitive development and educational attainment.”
PSAR Provides Mental Health Support to Ukrainian Refugees
Providing mental health support to Ukrainian refugees in Poland is Podkarpackie Stowarzyszenie dla Aktywnych Rodzin (PSAR) in Rzeszów, Poland. PSAR was established in 2015 with the aim of supporting the development of children. PSAR, with the support of Project HOPE, in May 2022 she founded the TUTU Psychophysical Development Center to help Ukrainian women and children process trauma.
The Borgen Project spoke with PSAR co-founder Jan Markovic to understand the mental state of refugees and the work of the TUTU Centre. According to Malkovich, Ukrainian refugees find it difficult to discuss trauma because of the stigma in Ukraine regarding mental health. According to him, some Ukrainian parents adamantly refused to allow their children to receive mental health support at TUTU centers. That’s why officials avoid mentioning mental health when a refugee first comes to her PSAR. Instead, the staff might say something like: [activity will help]your children [feel]to warm them up. Parents become more trusting over time.
According to Malkovich, when children come to the TUTU center, staff take them to an “integration room” to play with other children. While there, two or more specialists observe the children to identify signs of war trauma such as aggression, withdrawal, and the urge to hide. Older children may show less emotion because they expect their families to play adult roles and care for their younger siblings. Experts remind these children that they can go back to their childhood while at the TUTU Center.
TUTU Center Service
Child services at TUTU centers benefit refugee families in several ways. For one thing, the service allows a mother to spend a few hours a day looking for work or finding a place to live for herself. Activities like art sessions allow children to express trauma in ways that language alone struggles to describe. As children draw, the therapist can engage with them using the drawing as a point of discussion.
For adults, TUTU teaches relaxation techniques, social skills workshops, and provides information about schools, medical centers, and social services. As of the end of November 2022, the TUTU Center has assisted approximately 4,500 Ukrainian refugees (mainly children), providing 15,000 to 20,000 single-participation sessions.
Dr. Nate Fuchs
In Montreal, Canada, Nate Fuks, Ph.D., director of the Virginia I. Douglas Center for Clinical Psychology and associate professor (clinical) in the Department of Psychology at McGill University, launched an initiative to provide mental health support to Ukrainian refugees. raised. With his 200 volunteers, including psychologists, social workers, counselors and interpreters, he is currently helping about 90 Ukrainian refugees process their trauma at the Virginia I. Douglas Center.
In an interview with Borgen Project, Dr. Huks, from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov, said he learned in the first days of the invasion that the school and university he attended had been destroyed by Russian forces. He launched the Mental Health His Initiative, which operates under the Department of Psychology at McGill University, to help Ukrainian refugees.
Dr. Fuchs says the initiative is not funded by the university. It was entirely crowdfunded by private donations and donations from the National Foundation of Ukraine in Montreal. All volunteers started working for free, but now the center is trying to provide compensation for some.
Dr. Fuks talks about how trauma affects your ability to integrate into your country, your self-esteem, and your ability to feel comfortable in your body. The sooner trauma is intervened, the more effective the treatment, so Dr. Fuchs aimed to establish the initiative as soon as possible.
Volunteers will learn about Ukrainian culture and biases in mental health treatment, helping build trust with refugees and prepare them for treatment. This initiative provides individual and family therapy.
With the help of the National Foundation of Ukraine, the initiative has launched ancillary activities such as trauma-sensitive yoga, authentic dance movement classes and support groups. According to Dr. Fuchs, these activities not only help Ukrainians process trauma, but also help build friendships and social networks.
The benefits of this initiative can be summed up in the words of the specific refugees served by the centre.
It’s unclear when the war will end, or if more Ukrainians will flee the country, but the efforts of people like Jan Markovich and Dr. Nate Fuchs are helping refugees recover from trauma and trauma. It is clear that we reduce the damage of war by helping the rebuild their lives.
– James Harrington