The embattled eastern European country of Ukraine faces increasing levels of poverty as the majority of the population is unable to afford required expenses, 28 years after the country earned its independence. Compared to countries in the European Union, Ukraine’s poverty indicator is 1.6 times higher. Rising rates of unemployment, disconnections, lack of education and conflict impact the state of mental health in Ukraine. At the start of the war in 2014, Ukraine ranked second on the list of the top 10 most depressed countries in the world.
The Current State of Mental Health in Ukraine
Due to the armed conflict plaguing the nation, 32 percent of Ukrainians suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 22 percent suffer from depression and 17 percent suffer from anxiety. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there is an average of 9,024 deaths due to suicide per year, ranking Ukraine at 21 for the countries with the highest rates of suicide. Data from the World Bank suggests that nearly one-third of the Ukrainian population experiences at least one mental health disorder during their life, which is higher than the global average. The 1.6 million Ukrainians that the conflict displaced and those still residing in areas of conflict are amongst the most vulnerable populations for mental health disorders.
Seventy-four percent of the population reported they were unable to receive necessary psychiatric care because of the high costs of care and medicine. Stigma, prejudice and fear of societal rejection further complicate the lack of mental health care in Ukraine.
Moving Toward the Future
The Ukrainian health care system currently models the Soviet’s, and despite 28 years of independence, it has seen little change and lags behind the developed world. There has been a call to integrate mental health care with the ongoing health care reform in Ukraine. Currently, the country devotes only 2.5 percent of the budget within the health care sector to mental health. Eighty-nine percent of the allocation goes to psychiatric hospitals. Decentralization of care would protect patient confidentiality, shrinking the widespread stigma. Inappropriate treatment aggravates the problem of mental health, with the inability to diagnose or the offering of a misdiagnosis. In moving forward, financing needs to increase, referral pathways should strengthen and mental health services must integrate into the existing health care platforms.
USAID in Ukraine
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assists Ukraine in developing its health system with the overall aim of assuring the Ukrainian population receives modern care from knowledgeable, trained medical professionals. USAID and Ukraine’s partnership is to ensure those the conflict impacted in the eastern part of the country benefit from the appropriate psychosocial support and treatment that demonstrates effectiveness.
With help from the USAID and a focus on mental health moving forward, Ukraine looks to improve its care for those suffering from mental health disorders. Despite high levels of poverty and conflict plaguing the nation, there is a promising future for the care of mental health in Ukraine.
– Gwen Schemm