As the conflict continues to unravel, the prevalence of trauma and mental health problems will grow
Together with its members, MHE is assessing the rapidly developing situation in Ukraine and in the neighbouring countries. At this critical time, psychological support is needed for those who have remained in Ukraine, for the volunteers who are working on the humanitarian response as well as for the refugees who have travelled to neighbouring countries.
What families are going through currently in Ukraine will have devastating consequences for an entire generation. Research shows that violent conflicts and exposure to trauma increase the incidence and prevalence of mental health problems. Trauma is a pervasive global public health concern and is associated with enormous costs to the individual and society. It is indeed one of the most urgent public health issues.
This crisis will especially impact the mental wellbeing of children and young people. These vulnerable groups will require support to deal with the trauma caused by the conflict. Their parents and those who care for them will also require educational resources to be well equipped to talk with them about trauma.
The availability of mental health and psychosocial support is crucial. First level interventions including “trauma informed” programmes should become available immediately to offer coping strategies and strengthen resilience. When designing mental health interventions in places affected by conflict, the limited-service provision and reluctance to access mental health services must be addressed as a matter of priority.
Fortunately, many trauma-informed programmes are low-cost and effective. These should be rolled out immediately at mental health services to help children, adolescents, and young people to rebuild and improve resilience and wellbeing. Trauma-informed programmes include body-mind interventions such as mindfulness (breathing techniques and meditation, movement, guided imagery, as well as creative interventions using self-expression with words and drawings). Drawing on many decades of research and in line with world-leading trauma experts such as Bessel van der Kolk, MHE subscribes to human-rights based mental healthcare approaches to recovering from trauma.
Going forward, useful guides on how to look after your mental health during armed conflicts and exile will be made available.
These are uncertain and challenging times, and MHE is committed to supporting those working in mental health and psychosocial services, as well as users of mental healthcare services in Ukraine and in all the neighbouring countries.
MHE members-led initiatives are now emerging trying to support in alleviating the mental health impact of the war in Ukraine. MHE will share this information when it becomes available.
If you have information about a helpline or a service providing mental health support during the Ukraine crisis, please let us know via info[at]mhe-sme[dot]org.
Those who have been impacted by the pandemic and by the overwhelming news coverage of the crisis in Ukraine are encouraged to use MHE’s map of helplines and support services providing mental health care in many countries throughout Europe.
For more information, browse this webpage about the Ukraine war and mental health.