New report shows hidden burdens of conflict on IDPs in Ukraine

New research from International Alert suggests that a third of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in conflict-stricken Ukraine suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The report, called Hidden burdens of conflict, was written with our partners the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology.

Together we spoke to over 2,000 IDPs across Ukraine, and found that PTSD was prevalent among 32% of this group. A high number suffer from other mental disorders such as depression (22%) and anxiety (17%), particularly women. These have a major impact on family and community relations, and they also make routine everyday activities like working and even walking more difficult.

Moreover, 74% of those spoken to who are in need of psychiatric care do not receive it, mainly due to a high cost of mental healthcare and medicine.

“At the onset of the conflict, everyone was talking about providing basic needs like food, medicine and shelter. But now, three years on, it’s also clear that we need to start talking about mental health as part of our response to the conflict”, said Inna Topal (above), our Project Manager in Ukraine.

Photo © ITAR-TASS Photo Agency/Alamy

Since the start of the war in 2014, around 1.7 million people have been internally displaced in Ukraine, most of them fleeing the fighting in the east. Many have gone through traumatic experiences such as getting caught up in fighting, sustaining injuries and losing loved ones.

Together with the Global Initiative on Psychiatry, we opened three psychosocial centres in Ukraine to help those most affected by the conflict reintegrate into society, including IDPs and ex-combatants. The centres are piloting a new approach that combines psychological, social and legal support.

Our ‘peace education’ summer camps have also now returned for a second year to help children and young adults overcome the effects of trauma and violence, so they can become part of a solution.

The new study aims to provide scientific data to inform such programmes in the field of mental health and psychosocial support in Ukraine, and to inform government policy.

“Mental disorders such as PTSD mean that, even after escaping the horrors of war, many people find it hard to move on with their lives or see a better future”, said Topal.

“We therefore urge policymakers to make psychological health a part of the overall strategy for peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.”

This research and work are part of the project, 'Psychosocial seeds for peace', funded by the European Union.

The full report is also available in Ukrainian an Russian.