Office of First Lady, Ministry of Health and partners launch National Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programme

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created many new challenges for all Ukrainians. And these new challenges not only stand in the way of a full life, but also create obstacles to the realization of needs that until recently seemed basic. The war takes away life and health, forces people to flee their homes, separates loved ones. Virtually the entire population of Ukraine lives in constant stress, worries about their lives and the lives of their loved ones, does not feel safe, which in general has a negative impact on mental health. In addition to the constant threat of physical trauma during the war, many Ukrainians experience psychological trauma.

Along with the terrible consequences of the war, which are obvious, there are also those that do not manifest themselves immediately. But this does not mean that work with them should be postponed. War, with all its manifestations, is a powerful stress that can affect the psyche of the people a few years after the end of hostilities as well. So that it is not too late it is critical now to worry about the mental health of the population.

During and after the war, attention to the mental health of citizens must be at a particularly high level, as it is the level of psychological well-being that will affect the overall health, economic recovery and prosperity of the country.

In order for Ukrainians affected by the aggressor to have full and effective access to psychological assistance, First Lady Olena Zelenska initiated the creation of the National Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Program. This is an organic continuation of the “No Barriers” initiative, as it also aims to eliminate any barriers caused by the consequences of the war for the mental health of Ukrainians.

The program, in particular, provides for the following:

• conducting an expert audit with the involvement of WHO experts, on the basis of which a model of the assistance system will be developed;

• development of a step-by-step plan for the implementation of the model after its discussion with a wide range of representatives of the professional community, experts, public opinion leaders;

• building a system of training, certification, monitoring the quality of training of psychologists, psychotherapists, psychologists working in the system of the majority of ministries;

• training of family doctors, psychologists, social workers, educators of quick methods of psychological support;

• creation of a register of specialists and methods, systematization of data, development of a model of staff retraining, systems of their involvement.

To develop and implement the program at the state level, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has established an Interdepartmental Coordination Council to maintain cooperation between ministries dealing with social affairs, veterans’ affairs, law enforcement agencies, each having relevant set of resources for psychological assistance. Cross-sectoral cooperation will help strengthen each other.

In order to effectively create and implement the program, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, chaired by Minister Viktor Liashko, has launched a project office to create a national program of mental health and psychosocial support. The project office includes specialists from the Ministry of Health, the State Institution “Institute of Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Examination and Drug Monitoring of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine”, the public organization Barrier-Free Environment. Expertise and support in the implementation of the project is provided by the World Health Organization and the Global Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support of the Interagency Standing Committee.

The main tasks of the Project Office are to develop the necessary solutions, to cooperate with ministries and the private sector, international and non-governmental organizations working in the field of mental health.

The importance of joining forces to overcome the challenges posed by the war in the field of mental health of Ukrainians is an important condition for achieving the project’s goal, namely – to create a system that is ready to respond to all challenges and capable of providing assistance to everyone in need.

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