Mental health in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts - 2018 [EN/UK]

Report
from Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
Published on 31 Dec 2018 View Original
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1. INTRODUCTION

The conflict that broke out in the eastern Ukraine in April, 2014 has led to significant human losses, massive suffering, large-scale civilian displacement, as well as the destruction of private property and public infrastructure in two eastern oblasts - Luhansk and Donetsk. As a result, the population of these oblasts is more vulnerable to mental health problems due to the reaction to traumatic events and unfavorable external circumstances.

According to the official data, as of today there are more than one and a half million of internally displaced persons in Ukraine. Because of the conflict, the IDPs have difficulties finding a place of residence and work, have financial problems, almost do not feel that they belong to the host communities. Such stress factors often lead to family conflicts, alcohol abuse, fear of the future, loneliness or lack of communication and a sense of loss, and if all of the abovementioned distresses are combined, they can increase the risk of facing mental health problems.

Besides, military (ATO / JFO veterans), children and youth belong to risk groups regarding mental health disorders.

Studies show that the military face a large number of mental health problems. The stress factors that are the most common for the veterans, are the following: a lack of support from the authorities and the government, difficulties when looking for employment and obtaining medical services, and also drinking problems. Veterans often experience long-term stress because of the traumatic experiences and feelings of social isolation and hopelessness; have difficulties with adaptation and reintegration into society. This category of persons tend to get PTSD often.

Children and youth in the east of Ukraine suffer from unfavorable factors of the surroundings because of the ongoing conflict, to be more precise, these factors are:

  • the families suffering from a psychological trauma, which is especially true in case of the IDPs1 .
    According to interviewed experts, families of displaced persons in the East suffer double trauma. First, they have to endure the stress accumulated due to the fact that they remain in the region where the hostilities take place. Secondly, they have to endure the stress accumulated because of the need to adapt to the new environment;

  • interruption of studies: when the battles on the territories under the control of the government took place, 119 schools were damaged, and it forced the children to study remotely. About 54.9 thousand children of forced migrants were enrolled in other schools located in safer areas2 ;

  • constant uncertainty, lack of prospects (only 16% of respondents in the eastern part of Ukraine are optimistic about their future).

The adolescents and young people are at risk of developing negative stress management mechanisms, which include:

  • alcohol and drug abuse, as well as disorderly sexual life, which increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Almost 55% of young people from the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts which suffered because of the conflict do not know what HIV is, and 73% of them can not say what the difference between HIV and AIDS is. Young people misunderstand the main risk factors for the development of chemical dependence, such as drugs and alcohol: 67% believe that drinking beer is safe since it does not lead to alcohol addiction; 66% are convinced that light drugs can not cause harm and doing them is not as harmful as it is believed to be. The study showed that smoking is regarded as a "cool" behavior model by 44% of respondents, the use of light drugs – by 31%, alcohol consumption – by 56% ;

  • aggressive behavior. The most common problems in the behavior of children between 13 and 18 years old are concentration deficit disorder, fear and aggression.

The combined effects of psychological trauma, fear of a new escalation of the conflict, daily risk of injury and restrictions on freedom of movement can lead to mental health problems and the need for protection and humanitarian assistance among both vulnerable groups and other residents of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.