Ukrainian soldiers and civilians suffer from serious war trauma

Ukrainian soldiers and civilians suffer from serious war trauma | DW News
Despite Ukraine’s outward show of strength and resilience, frontline troops suffer not only physical wounds, but also psychological ones. DW’s Nick Spicer visited a treatment center in the countryside outside the capital, Kyiv, that helps soldiers recover from both kinds of war injuries.
And Iryna Frankova, head of the Traumatic Stress Network at the European College of Neuro-psycho-pharmacology, explains the causes and symptoms of wartime trauma.

Despite ukraine’s outward show of
strength and resilience front-line
troops suffer not only physical wounds
but also psychological ones dw’s nick
spicer visited a treatment center in the
countryside outside the capital kiev
that helped soldiers recover from both
kinds of war injuries
rifleman alexey shevchenko worked in
construction before the russian invasion
within weeks he was on the front lines
in the east under constant massive
artillery fire he says he would fall to
the ground for cover take out his phone
and amid the deafening blasts swiped to
a photo of danya his seven-year-old boy
back in the capitol
i looked at my son before going to bed
and understood that if the russian
soldiers were not stopped where i was
they could reach kiev again
i thought of my boy and asked myself
will someone else raise my son
didn’t want to go into details but will
say he suffered a concussion and had a
nervous breakdown he is one of 150
patients at the rehabilitation center
whose location we were asked to keep
secret so it wouldn’t be targeted
some suffer from post-traumatic stress a
psychological problem and others from
traumatic brain injuries damage which
can be caused by the blast waves of
explosions symptoms for both include
suicidal thoughts depression insomnia
and anger
a door slam or firecracker can trigger
the terrifying feeling you are under
fire again
alexei is here for three weeks of
psychotherapy group discussions walks
and massages he says he’ll abide by the
doctor’s decision about whether he
should return to battle
over history soldiers returning from war
have described often feeling a sense of
stigma from society and inability to
understand what they’re going through
and a rejection of what they’re feeling
but that’s not all the case here in
ukraine according to the director of
this institute
we believe in victory in the power
strength and experience of our soldiers
every loss will be in the heart of every
i think that helps them
the belief that we are here
standing behind them
there are people who respect them
immensely and are proud of them
it is very important for them to know
about this and we constantly tell them
is an explosives expert and has been
fighting since 2014 when russia annexed
crimea and parts of the east he likes
looking at the murals at the center to
lift his morale he suffers from combat
related stress
here working with psychologists helps a
if a person is whole has arms and legs
it does not mean that everything is
normal with the person
his psyche is disturbed
maxim says he is burdened by many
memories like when his men moved into a
town just occupied by the russians who
had shot people attached explosives to
their bodies and buried them
to clean all the yards and gardens in
this village
we found a total of five buried
maxime bodies his men call him every day
they want him to come back
he says he knows it will be hard to
return but that he must
for more let’s bring in irina frankova
here she’s the head of the traumatic
stress network at the european college
neuropsychopharmacology she’s from kiev
but due to the war she joins us from the
netherlands thanks for being with us
professor frankova can you give us a
sense of how many people soldiers and
civilians are believed to have suffered
serious trauma in ukraine as a result of
this war
good afternoon and thank you for having
me today so basically on one hand um
exposure to traumatic experience is a
part of our daily routine so each second
person face
threatening events during the life but
on the other hand we know that
secondary trauma through social media is
a well-known phenomena so it’s important
to talk not about the number of um
exposed to traumatic event but those who
will stay resilient
and i would say that um of course it
depends on the population civil
population are less vulnerable and
soldiers so first responders medical
more vulnerable and we are talking about
10 to 20 percent
so this is a a huge problem when it
comes to helping ukraine we often talk
about military aid weapons and whatnot
but what about medical support mental
health services should ukraine’s
partners be doing more do you think to
help in that regard
i think
a ukraine partners should do their work
and we mental health professionals will
do our work and since elena zelenska
first lady of ukraine is leading now a
program of mental health support i
believe that stigma
will decrease and the number of
professionals will increase within
what are the most common psychological
problems that trauma victims in ukraine
are dealing with
i would say it’s sleep problems
nightmares and
memories of traumatic events but as well
a level of anxiety
and separation problem as well as laws
are common and
neurotic symptoms like obsessions and
compulsion especially in children
we see it on a daily basis
now working through trauma takes time
and it needs or
requires a secure environment how
difficult is it to provide that
environment with the war still going on
i would say that priority during ongoing
traumatic experience is to optimize
and it it it means that we should help
people to adjust to the current reality
in the best possible way both for
civilians and soldiers and then we might
think about trauma treatment but not
right after the trauma please mind that
we have to wait because during first
three months those symptoms of traumatic
stress might just
disappear because of
phenomena of
now many ukrainian families have been
torn apart by this war of women and
children leaving when husbands have to
say goodbye to say it was had to stay
behind how does that affect the psyche
of the soldiers fighting in this war
that separation
uh what i have uh heard from a personal
communication with soldiers knowing that
family are in safety
works even better for them to protect
country knowing that
children and and wife and and
parents would not be affected by by this
war helps them actually to fight
uh thank you so much for that uh that
was professor irina frankova traumatic
traumatic stress expert joining us there
from the netherlands

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