Estonia assisting Ukraine in psychological rehabilitation

  • 2023-09-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - This week, Estonia is hosting 40 Ukrainian healthcare professionals for advanced training in psychological first aid and psychological rehabilitation.

Kristi Kalvik, the leading psychologist at North Estonia Medical Center, said that the attendees for the training come from various regions of Ukraine. One of the main goals of the three-day seminar is to help establish a unified network that would allow professionals to share experiences, learn from each other, and provide mutual support amid the complex war situation in Ukraine.

"We practice self-help techniques together during the seminar, beneficial for both the caregiver and the patient. We introduce psychological first aid as a crucial method for crisis management, discuss psychological support for children and families as a whole, and engage in practical exercises to reinforce what has been learned," Kalvik said. "The better Ukrainian healthcare workers are equipped in this field, the more effectively they can assist millions in need."

In addition to psychological rehabilitation, Ukrainian healthcare workers will gain insights into mental health physiotherapy at the East-Tallinn Central Hospital's outpatient rehabilitation center.

Katrin Olo-Laansoo, the head of the center, emphasized the importance of mental health physiotherapy for patients with various physical injuries.

"For example, if a fighter has lost an arm or leg in battle, mental health physiotherapy plays a significant role in coping with life thereafter. We have been cooperating with NATO and the Estonian defense forces specifically in the rehabilitation of wounded fighters, and now we are helping Ukraine."

Rehabilitation is currently needed not just for returning soldiers but also for their parents, spouses, and children.

The project, supported by the Estonian Center for International Development (ESTDEV), aims to train 200 Ukrainian healthcare professionals and university faculty members. Psychological first aid is planned to be implemented as a crucial method for preventing and alleviating post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental conditions in Ukrainian healthcare institutions treating war casualties.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in five people who have been in war situations in the past decade suffer from various mental health disorders, ranging from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to bipolar disorders and schizophrenia. Extrapolating these statistics to Ukraine, it is estimated that up to 9.6 million people in Ukraine suffer from various mental disorders. Psychological first aid after traumatic events helps people cope and reduces the likelihood of developing long-term mental illness, thereby easing the burden on Ukraine's already strained healthcare system.

Experts from North Estonia Medical Center, East-Tallinn Central Hospital, and Tallinn Health Care College are involved in the cooperation project. Key partners from Ukraine include the Association of Doctors of the Carpathian Region, led by Oleksander Marusyn, a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, Ivano-Frankivsk National Medical University led by Vice Rector Oleg Bilous, and Col. Andriy Kikh, chief psychologist of the Irpinsky Military Hospital.