NewsMental Health Support Assists Ukrainians in Coping with the Stress of War

Mental Health Support Assists Ukrainians in Coping with the Stress of War

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Living in frontline and formerly occupied areas, Ukrainians are confronted with the enduring trauma of war on a daily basis. The pervasive fear of the conflict’s resurgence haunts many, as expressed by one anonymous woman who admits to waking up at night, gripped by the dread of potential re-occupation.

Svitlana L., a teacher and grandmother, recounts the toll the war has taken on her health, exacerbating pre-existing conditions and inducing heightened anxiety. For her and countless others, the memories of the armed forces’ presence linger, casting a shadow over daily life.

The protracted conflict in Ukraine poses a significant threat to mental health, with the World Health Organization estimating that nearly 10 million individuals in the country may be grappling with mental health conditions. Compounding this challenge, conflict disrupts the ability of healthcare systems to provide essential services, leaving many without the support they desperately need.

Recognizing this pressing need, FHI 360 is actively engaged in providing crucial mental health and psychosocial support services to conflict-affected communities in southern and eastern Ukraine. Through the Ukraine Humanitarian Assistance Response Program (UHARP), funded by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, FHI 360 aims to alleviate the psychological burden borne by those affected by the conflict.

FHI 360’s approach involves meeting individuals where they are, deploying psychologists within mobile medical units that traverse over 150 villages across six regions of Ukraine. These units offer both mental and physical healthcare, ensuring holistic support for those in need.

Moreover, FHI 360 has integrated psychologists into government primary healthcare centers, thereby bolstering the capacity of the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to address mental health challenges sustainably.

Oleksii Lytvynov, a psychologist embedded within one of these mobile teams, attests to the persistent stigma surrounding mental health care. Despite initial resistance, communities are gradually warming up to the idea of seeking support, particularly as they recognize shared experiences of distress.

Since the onset of the full-scale invasion in 2022, there has been a noticeable surge in stress-related conditions among individuals in conflict-affected areas. Older women, who often lack the means to flee, constitute a significant proportion of those seeking care at mobile medical units.

Dr. Natalia Kolisnyk, a medical doctor within one of these mobile teams, underscores the dire circumstances faced by many patients. Cut off from essential services and grappling with financial hardship, these individuals find themselves isolated and vulnerable.

Larysa Vysotska, a patient benefiting from the services provided by FHI 360, attests to the invaluable support offered by psychologists at mobile medical units.

In addition to immediate support, FHI 360 emphasizes the importance of equipping individuals with coping mechanisms to navigate the uncertainty and emotional toll of war. Oksana Lapinska, a psychologist within a mobile medical unit, empowers her patients to find resilience amidst adversity, emphasizing the importance of recognizing personal strengths.

Using modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy, art therapy, and mindfulness techniques, psychologists impart practical tools for managing stress and trauma. Through creative approaches, such as blowing bubbles or crafting bracelets, psychologists strive to instill a sense of comfort and normalcy amidst upheaval.

As the conflict persists, FHI 360 remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting the mental health and well-being of Ukrainians. By extending vital services to even the most remote and overlooked communities, FHI 360 endeavors to provide a lifeline for those navigating the complexities of war.

“Our village is very small,” reflects Svitlana L., “but FHI 360 doesn’t forget about us.” This sentiment encapsulates the profound impact of FHI 360’s efforts in providing solace and support to those grappling with the enduring effects of conflict.

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