What's going on? 13:53 24 May 2024

"Each of us has a trauma": how war affects mental state of Ukrainians

Rubryka attended the tenth Lviv Media Forum and recorded the main moments from the speech of Olha Rudneva, the head, and co-founder of the clinic of psychological assistance, prosthetics, reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation for people affected by the war, Superhumans Center, and British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh.

What is the problem?

Currently, injuries or deaths of loved ones and friends at the front and in the rear have become an inseparable part of the lives of Ukrainians. For more than two years, the war has become commonplace, forcing people to adapt to new realities and challenges. 

"Each of us has a trauma. It is different for everyone: for some, it is war trauma, loss, or moral trauma. Even those who left the country have it. However, one day, we will still win, and despite such a traumatic experience, we must learn to safely interact with each other," says Olha Rudneva. 

Ukrainian military personnel are among those who find themselves in the most difficult and traumatic circumstances, especially after being wounded. As the manager and co-founder of the Superhumans Center notes, their condition quite often manifests in various ways: some begin to appreciate their lives even more, while others, on the contrary, lose faith in themselves.

реабілітація у Superhumans Center

Olha Rudneva. Photo Facebook/Lviv Media Forum

"All Ukrainians, regardless of how much they do, always believe it is still insufficient. The only people who don't feel guilty are those who are killed in the war," the expert states. 

Wounded civilians, and especially military personnel, need long-term psychological assistance and rehabilitation. Without proper medical care, untreated emotional and psychological injuries can lead to severe problems with health and social adaptation. Providing qualified care in the early stages is an essential step in patients' rapid and successful recovery. 

"War is incredibly scary. And the psychological impact on people is simply colossal. An important component of patient rehabilitation is, first of all, attitude. They need to be perceived as normal people, not heroes, and not be looked down upon or pitied," says British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh.

реабілітація у британський нейрохірург Генрі Марш Henry Marsh. Photo by Lviv Media Forum

What is the solution?

Bringing back the zest for life and teaching traumatized patients to integrate into society are the tasks facing doctors in Ukraine. In particular, the Superhumans rehabilitation center is actively working in this direction, where, thanks to the early intervention program, people affected by the war receive complex rehabilitation assistance. First, they undergo an initial examination, which allows specialists to determine the condition and level of injury. During therapy, the center brings in former patients who help create a friendly atmosphere and provide support. They manage to establish such a contact thanks to the experience of overcoming similar emotions.

"Our patients give us a lot of motivation and energy. We work with people who might not have survived at all because they had been waiting for evacuation for a long time. And when they arrive in a wheelchair and start walking within a week, it is incredibly inspiring," says Rudneva. 

She adds that the center's patients are usually eager to return to fighting, even in spite of severe injuries. There are situations where they feel strong guilt for their injuries and inability to continue defending the country. However, thanks to professional advice, they find themselves doing something new—volunteering or playing sports. 

According to Marsh, patients who have experienced serious injuries or illnesses say that they would not wish this on anyone, but thanks to this experience, they discover many new things for themselves and begin to understand that life cannot be taken for granted — it must be valued.

реабілітація у Superhumans Center

Olha Rudneva and Henry Marsh. Photo by Lviv Media Forum

One of the center's patients recently took part in a marathon, ran five kilometers on a prosthesis and became the first among all regular participants. He had never done anything like this before, but as his life almost ended, he realized how much good he could do. Another patient started buying and bringing cars to his comrades. "There are many such stories, and all of them are real motivating examples of the indomitability and will of Ukrainian people," says Rudneva.  

In times of war, it is also important to tell the successful stories of rehabilitating people who have lost a limb to maintain the morale of both the military and civilians. Such stories show that even in the most difficult circumstances, it is possible to recover and return to a full life, inspiring those who face similar challenges. In addition, the publication of such stories helps raise awareness of modern methods of rehabilitation and assistance that may become available to other survivors. After all, these stories help to strengthen the belief in victory and common solidarity, which are extremely important in times of war.

"What really impresses me about Ukrainians is how resilient they are. Of course, this is connected with the war and many other factors. Therefore, despite such a traumatic time, the population of Ukraine has every chance to recover," notes Marsh.

In addition, society must be reformed. It is important to raise awareness regarding rehabilitation problems, which will create favorable conditions for recovering and maintaining patients' health. Equally important are systemic changes that will improve access to medical services, including psychologists and psychotherapists. By joining forces, state support and non-governmental and international organizations will be able to help Ukrainians overcome the psychological consequences of the war faster and return to normal life faster.


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