According to a UN survey, the biggest concern people in Ukraine have due to the Russian invasion is their mental health. Mental health in Ukraine was already low due to Russia’s previous invasion and the impact of COVID-19. But with the effects of the February 2022 Russian invasion, mental health in Ukraine has only declined further. A reported 70% of the population is experiencing mental health problems due to the war. Here is how the war in Ukraine has affected its people’s mental health.
Poverty in Ukraine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a significant impact on the country’s economic and social conditions, as well as its general livelihood. The poverty rate in Ukraine increased from 5% to 24.2% in 2022, meaning almost a quarter of Ukrainians were living on less than $2.15 a day These poor living conditions have had a number of effects that have affected mental health in Ukraine.
Impact of the War
The fallout of the invasion has included:
- Mass Unemployment — After the invasion in February 2022, many people’s jobs were made redundant. As of November 2022, 2.4 million people were unemployed due to the conflict. This is due to attacks on Ukrainian ports and infrastructure, which severely limits the imports and exports of the country, thus causing the businesses to suffer and forcing them to decrease employees. This has thrust many Ukrainians into poverty.
- Inflation — Rates of inflation reached 26.6% at the end of 2022, making it difficult for Ukrainian people to access food and other resources. With the rate of unemployment being so high, people do not have the finances to provide for their families regardless of soaring prices. Inflation has put an additional strain on the Ukrainian people.
- Damaged Buildings and Structures — Hospitals, cultural sites, homes, factories and industrial centers have all been affected. The buildings have either been pillaged of their products or goods or destroyed completely.
- Refugee Crisis and Displacement — More than 8 million people have fled Ukraine, leaving behind their homes. Others have been involuntarily displaced by Russia.
- A Decrease in New Jobs — With the high levels of unemployment, as well as the country’s GDP decreasing by 30% since the start of the war, generating new jobs in the aftermath of the war will be difficult, thus placing Ukrainian people’s financial stability into further suspension.
- Lack of Safety — Perhaps one of the biggest factors impacting mental health in Ukraine is the constant danger and instability. An estimated 9,000 people died during the invasion with a further 16,000 people injured. Russia is constantly threatening further attacks and possible use of nuclear weapons. Living in constant danger like this is a big part of why mental health is so low in Ukraine.
All these effects have impacted the mental health and general well-being of the Ukrainian people in ways detailed in the Heal Ukraine Trauma report.
Mental Health Concerns
The Heal Ukraine Trauma report from April 2023 stated this about the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “The invasion has stripped civilians of their sense of identity. Their world was turned upside down overnight, allowing for little preparation and increasing cases of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.”
The report goes on to detail the main mental health concerns in Ukraine due to the war, including a fear of death, loss of freedom, grief, separation of families, social dislocation, social disruption, forced migration and more.
Further, there are mental health issues in Ukraine due to the war that are specific to certain demographics; for example, women in Ukraine are fearful of gender-based violence such as rape and sexual torture. Many women have reported taking measures to avoid this violence such as constantly staying indoors, which has impacted their mental health significantly. Another example includes mothers and fathers, who may feel pressure to care for their families, taking on the burden of caring for their children and partners both emotionally and physically.
How Poverty and Mental Health Interact
The widespread increase in poverty due to the invasion is another cause of mental health issues. As mentioned earlier in this article, the poverty rate in Ukraine shot up from 5% to 24.2% due to the war, indicating a serious decline in the country’s situation.
In an interview with The Guardian, a church pastor in charge of giving out free bread to Ukrainian people stated that people who use the service talk about how “hard” it is dealing with the failing economy and how younger people who have lost their jobs will greatly “suffer.” Another resident told the Guardian that she “never imagined we would be living like this. Before the war, we managed everything. It’s very difficult and everyone is suffering the same.”
What Some are Doing to Help
The BMJ report states that funding is being placed into trauma training in order to help Ukrainian people process their mental health struggles. Upon fleeing from Ukraine to Berlin, Vitalii Panok, the director of Ukraine’s Scientific and Methodological Centre of Applied Psychology and Social Work, gathered 40 different Ukrainian psychologists with assistance from the Psychologische Hochschule to help people in Ukraine deal with trauma from the war.
– Jess Wilkinson