Elderly woman with hands on her head in Ukraine

Six months on in Ukraine: Brutal mental health toll must not be overlooked, warns CARE 

Since the escalation of war in Ukraine on 24 February, more than 10 million women and children have been negatively impacted, and with an estimated one third of Ukrainian refugees expected to develop depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorders, there is an urgent need to provide support to those suffering from ongoing war trauma now and in the months and years to come, warns CARE.   

“The fear and grief that wars create leave deep internal scars – scars that hurt every bit as much, if not more, than physical scars. Left unaddressed, this fear and grief can have a profound long-term, negative impact and lead to a range of serious mental health issues or even suicide,” said Isadora Quay, CARE International’s Global Gender in Emergencies Coordinator.  

Sarah Easter, a member of CARE’s global emergency team, travelled to Ukraine recently and heard countless stories of fear, distress, terror, heartbreak and hope. She shared, "We cannot sit idly by and watch women and children suffer from ongoing psychological distress and its complications. Women told me about missiles going through apartments and dead bodies on the street, and also that as a consequence of the war, when searching for safe places, they found closed public facilities or not fully functional health facilities, preventing them from receiving adequate help. We urgently need to step up our assistance so that women and children can receive the mental health and psychosocial support they need to survive, heal and face the future.” 

It sounded like rain, but there were no clouds. When I stepped out onto the balcony, a missile flew by. That’s when I decided to flee west. The evacuation train went through the active war zone. It was announced that we should turn off our phones. Then the lights went off and we continued very slowly. The train was dead quiet.
Maya, 62, Ukrainian refugee from Kyiv

CARE and our partners are providing support to families, women and children who have seen and experienced the horrors of war in Ukraine. “We are employing psychosocial workers through organisations in Poland, Ukraine and Romania to provide much-needed support to those impacted by the war, as well as providing relief activities for families and children and information on where to seek further help, including anonymously through hotlines. CARE’s partners have also produced a book that helps people process their feelings and learn useful coping strategies. Not everyone is comfortable speaking directly with a mental health professional, so we have designed a range of activities and approaches to suit different needs,” said Ms Quay.  

Tamara, a psychologist with a Ukrainian organisation supported by the Center for Women's Perspective, a CARE partner, said, “Most of my patients either live in the past or in the future. I help them to live in the present. I normally start by letting them explain their fear, maybe let them draw it. Most of my patients are stressed and in shock. I try and decrease their level of fear. I believe there will be a lot of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.”   

Tetyana, 33, who fled Luhansk with her 12-year-old daughter, said, “I came to Rivne totally broken. I needed help and someone to talk to. With a psychologist, we talked about my primary fear. We did some practical exercises to control my negative thoughts, to stop and turn it to the positive. The first time there were air sirens in Rivne, it was like something switched inside of me. I was so overwhelmed and there were too many emotions. Now I can deal with it better. I can talk about it. The sirens do not scare me as much.”    

Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro, CARE International’s Secretary General said, “As mental health needs increase, psychosocial and mental health support must be made available and accessible to affected women, men and children, and treated with the same urgency as meeting physical needs. Lives and futures depend on it.”    

Notes to the editor:  

From February to June 2022, CARE and partners have reached over 466,000 people affected by the crisis, across Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Georgia and Germany with protection and psychosocial support, cash assistance, food, water, sanitation & hygiene assistance, health services, support for accommodation and education. CARE is working with 56 implementing partners.   

CARE and partners have reached:  

  • 236,000 people with food and nutrition support   

  • 65,000 people with health services   

  • 54,000 people with support for accommodation   

  • 49,000 people with water, sanitation and hygiene assistance   

  • 47,000 people with psychosocial support, education and cash assistance  

  • 21,000 people reached with gender-based violence prevention and protection services  

  • 1,500 children and youth reached with school starter kits in Germany
     

KEY STATISTICS  

  • In Ukraine, over 5.7 million school-aged children have been negatively impacted by the war and 5.2 million women have been affected. A majority of displaced people in Ukraine (64%) are female.   

  • The UN estimates that 17.7 million people, around 40% of the population - will require lifesaving humanitarian assistance in the coming months, 9.5 million of whom are women.  

  • From 24 February 2022 to 17 July 2022 the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 11,862 civilian casualties in Ukraine (5,110 killed and 6,752 injured), more than half of the casualties (6,687) were in eastern Donetsk and Luhanska.  

  • Women make up for 65 percent of internally displaced people within Ukraine and are faced with a sharply increased risk of multiple forms of violence– including conflict-related sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse and trafficking. 3.3 million people, primarily women and girls, are in need of gender-based violence prevention and response services.  

  • According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 6.6 million people—at least 65 per cent of whom are women—are still trying to find safety in different parts of Ukraine as of July 2022. 

For media enquiries, contact Suzy Sainovski, Senior Humanitarian Communications Coordinator – CARE International, [email protected]