Kyiv/London, 7 June 2017: Some 32% of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the conflict in the east.
These are the findings of a new study, Hidden burdens of conflict: Mental health issues and access to services among internally displaced persons in Ukraine, conducted by International Alert, the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology.
Among the 2,203 respondents surveyed across Ukraine, the study also found a high prevalence of mental disorders such as depression (22%) and anxiety (17%), particularly among women. This has a significant effect on family and community relations, the ability to work or even do basic tasks such as walking.
Moreover, the study noted that 74% of respondents in need of psychiatric care do not receive it, mainly due to a high cost of mental healthcare and medicine.
Inna Topal, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian branch of International Alert, a peacebuilding charity, said:
“At the onset of the conflict, everyone was talking about providing basic needs like food, medicine and shelter. But now, three years on, it’s also clear that we need to start talking about mental health as part of our response to the conflict.”
Since the start of the war in 2014, at least 1.6 million people have been internally displaced in Ukraine, most of them fleeing the fighting in the east. Many have gone through traumatic experiences such as shelling, getting caught up in fighting, injuries and the loss of loved ones.
International Alert, together with the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, has opened three psychosocial centres in Ukraine (in Kyiv, Dnipro and Lviv) to help those severely affected by the conflict reintegrate into society, including IDPs and ex-combatants. The centres are piloting an innovative approach that combines psychological, social and legal support.
International Alert also runs ‘peace education’ summer camps that build resilience in children and young adults against the effects of trauma and violence.
The new study aims to provide scientific data to inform such programmes in the field of mental health and psychosocial support in Ukraine, and to inform government policy.
“Mental disorders such as PTSD mean that, even after escaping the horrors of war, many people find it hard to move on with their lives or see a better future. We therefore urge policymakers to make psychological health a part of the overall strategy for peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Photo: Mothers queue up to receive humanitarian aid in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine. © UNICEF Ukraine/P. Zmey (Creative Commons BY 2.0)
Ukraine conflict: Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine in 2014, nearly 10,000 people have been killed, 1.6 million internally displaced and up to 1 million forced to flee their country. Although the intensity of fighting in eastern Ukraine fell in the past two years, military and civilian casualties are still reported every week.
PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), first recognised in war veterans, is an anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt. These symptoms are often severe enough to have a significant impact on the person’s life.
About International Alert - Ukraine: International Alert is an independent peacebuilding organisation set up in 1986 to help people address the root causes of conflict. In Ukraine, we partner with local organisations and individuals to better understand the conflict, deliver psychosocial support to those affected by it, and support civic action to help the non-violent resolution of conflict. www.international-alert.org/ukraine