Ukrainian Refugee Mental Health Crisis

Ukrainian Survivor-Victims

Only Black king standing on chess board

To the outside world, Ukrainian refugees are the lucky survivors of a brutal war. But in reality, they are the real victims, who are devastated both physically and mentally.

Today, I wanted to discuss about the psychological implications of war on the Ukrainian refugees, as I think it is one of the largest scale burning issues on mental health in the world at the moment. Of course, we should not forget about the equally distressed people living in other countries that were affected by war and political unrest, like Afghanistan, recently.

Ukraine is in focus today as the war is live there even at this very moment. Thousands of people become refugees, lose their loved ones and everything they earned during a lifetime, on a daily basis, so at the moment, we are not even able to predict the scale of the disaster this Russo-Ukrainian war will turn out at the end. Nor can we guarantee that this will end up there in Ukraine.

Is this the start of the World War III? Is there any assurance that the rest of the world, including you and me, will not be affected, in the near future? I know, we too are already affected by this war, indirectly though, with the rise of the energy prices, followed by a cost-of-living hike, but what I meant was the real devastation, like bombardments and fighting all over the world, making us too refugees and wretches, like those unfortunate Ukrainians today. Who knows? I think it’s still not too late for the world leaders to ensure human life takes priority over anything else.

Am I going to extremes in my imagination? All I meant to say was that there is no end to the potential damage this war could do to the people (anywhere in the world), mentally as well as physically.

The violence and the physical destruction resulted by the war are visible in front of our very eyes. However, we will never realize the extent of damage it does to the core of the millions of innocent people.

Ukrainian women and children

It is mostly the Ukrainian women and children, who are psychologically victimised due to this war. The women have to leave their partners, fathers, sons and brothers behind, without any hope to see them again. They have to take the little ones with them, to a faraway city, or another country from there, not for a holiday, but to survive, without knowing how. They have to bear the responsibility of protecting and providing for the children they carry with them, all alone, in an unfamiliar country, yet without a job, shelter, partner, family or any hope for the future. They have to find solutions for fulfilling the learning, medical or other special requirements of their children. They have to hide their apprehension and cheer up the children, while weeping from within. Isn’t this too much to expect from one person? This situation only gets worse, when they have already lost one or more loved ones, and yet need to undergo all this painful refugee experience.

A little boy in a van destroyed from the war.

Isn’t it better to fight in the war-front than undergoing such trauma as a refugee? I know this might sound silly, because even in the battle front, people think of families they left behind and worry about their wellbeing and future. When in the middle of war, they live with the fear of death too. Their only hope that they will get-together with their families one day is only a rare chance, when the reality is that they might get killed at any moment. So, who are we to decide which situation is better? What is better when both situations are dreadful beyond imagination? At least I hope that those who are at the battlefield are too occupied with fight, driven by the heroic atmosphere, and overwhelmed with physical exhaustion, to distress themselves, which is fine for the moment, though they might undergo post war trauma in future.

What about refugee children? At an age when they should feel the freedom and love to its best, they are observing the violence and destruction, that is too much to digest, and confined in alien environments, deprived of basic needs, on top of all, their right to enjoy the life like children without fear, for life, for danger, for loosing loved ones, etc. We all have passed that age. We can still recall how happy and light-headed we were, without any burden of responsibilities, right? Every child should have that freedom, to be happy, playful, mischievous, curious, adventurous and everything they want. But those poor little humans have their lives turned upside down overnight and forced into a different lifestyle which they did not wish for. Their lives are not theirs any longer. Now they don’t have dreams, but nightmares… These innocent victims of war are oblivious to the psychological consequences of their today’s life-changing experience, that they are vulnerable to, in future, in their adulthood.

We should not forget that the women and children are the foundation of the next generations, meaning that their physical and mental wellbeing have a direct impact on the future of the nation – the Ukrainian nation, in this story. It will take years for them to physically revive, and yet decades and generations for their wounded minds to recover.

Reconstruction of Ukrainian nation

As the war is still ongoing, the physical reconstruction of the refugees’ lives is not relevant today and yet it would be a ginormous nationwide, worldwide task in the future. It is impossible to imagine the cost, labour, resources and time, it would take to revive the once lively and vibrant cities of Ukraine, which are now just wrecks, ashes and barren land.

However, recovering the survivors from the trauma exposure is not a task of future or anything to be postponed. Every single day, passed without addressing this mental health issue, matters significantly and would have irrecoverable consequences in future.

Psychological support for refugees

It is not just couple of hundreds of people, who have lost their loved ones, hard-earned assets as well as all physical and psychological needs, meaning almost everything they enjoyed in their lives so far, it is millions and the number is rocketing daily.

To be honest, the mental health support available for these Ukrainian war survivors is not sufficient at the moment. No doubt that offering psychological services for such a (still-growing) large number of people is a mammoth task and when serving such a large population, the quality of the service might get compromised by the quantity. I think it is easier to stop the war (no matter how obstinate Mr P and Mr Z are about coming to an agreement) than fulfilling the mental health needs of the victims of the war.

I am not underestimating the hard work of the benevolent individuals and associations, who have already well recognised this hidden disaster and hence, got into gear. This is just a fair observation on the status quo, considering the magnitude of the mental health crisis at hand compared to the support available at the moment.

Suggestions for improved mental health support

We all agree that only healthy minds could regenerate a healthy nation and a prosperous country. So, it is paramount that the whole world gets together to help Ukrainian refugees recover mentally, as much as materially.

In addition to the general administration of support for large groups of people, it is very important to make sure that each individual of them feel safe and supported. This means that every one of these refugees should be aware of (and how to access) the psychological support available for them, if required. Also, without relying on them to request for the support, it is advisable to carry out a health check on individuals, on regular basis for ensuring their mental wellbeing.

The merits of healing the hearts of the survivor-victims of the Russo-Ukrainian war is indescribable. Their mental health crisis is not something to be ignored, underrated, or addressed later. Delivering solace to them is a long, difficult path, so better start it today itself…

Mental health support resources for Ukrainian refugees

I have listed below a couple of organizations who offer and support mental health services for the Ukrainian refugees, and there they mention how to access the services, if one is in need. There are many organizations, who claim to be providing similar services and hence collect donations through their websites, though it is not clear how to obtain their services if one requires. Maybe these organisations are working in the real field, among the refugees, so their support system is familiar to the target population.

What do you think about the mental health issue of the Ukrainian refugees or refugees in general? Do you have suggestions for improving the standard of mental health support provided to them? Share your thoughts with others by leaving a comment below.

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