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First Lady Olena Zelenska opened expanded meeting of the interdepartmental coordination council for mental health and psychological assistance to persons affected by the armed aggression of the RF against Ukraine

7 December 2022
16

As part of the initiative of First Lady Olena Zelenska to create a national mental health program, an expanded meeting of the interdepartmental coordination council on mental health and psychological assistance to persons affected by the aggression of the RF against Ukraine was held.

The meeting was attended by representatives of embassies and international organizations: the UN mission in Ukraine, the WHO office in Ukraine, the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, Switzerland, and the European Union, representatives of the British Embassy, heads of the regional military-civil administrations.

The results of the audit of citizens’ needs for mental health services and psychosocial support, analysis of international experience in building mental health systems, and principles that can be used to improve the mental health system in Ukraine were presented at today’s event.

Olena Zelenska addressed the audience with an opening speech.

“The simple question “How are you?” became the slogan of our many mental health campaigns and turned out to be deeper than we thought, because it is not only about the physical, but also about the state of mind. The strongest of us sometimes need months of fighting not only the enemy, but also our own stereotypes to accept that the answer to this question may be “I’m not okay. It’s difficult, hard, stressful for me.” The psychological “not okay” is now the state of most of our compatriots. And it is normal, correct, and mandatory to talk about it and look for a solution,” the President’s wife said.

The meeting presented the document developed within the framework of the National Mental Health Program – the operational roadmap “Priority Multisectoral Measures on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Ukraine During and After the War”. The document was developed by representatives of the public sector, UN agencies, international and Ukrainian organizations working in the field of development and humanitarian response, in coordination with WHO. The operational roadmap will allow quickly responding to challenges “here and now”. It sets out the priorities that all those who work in the field of mental health in the context of a humanitarian crisis should focus on. This will allow coordinating the actions in accordance with the priorities identified as a result of the analysis.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal noted that without sufficient focus on the mental health of the nation we will have a significant burden on the medical, social, educational systems, and the law enforcement system.

“The state will be the driver and coordinator of the creation of a new system for providing services in the field of mental health. Services that will be provided quickly, efficiently, and without bureaucracy, because the psychological state of a person affects our resilience to challenges. Losses in the economy can reach 4-5% of GDP. We see the welfare of Ukrainians as the main goal of our joint efforts. We will survive, overcome difficulties and rebuild Ukraine — a strong state, whose main wealth is healthy and talented people,” the Prime Minister said.

The participants of the meeting reviewed the results of the audit of citizens’ needs for mental health services and psychosocial support, as well as international experience in building mental health systems. Principles that can be used to improve the mental health system in Ukraine were also presented. It is important that in addition to positive international practices, considerable attention was paid to studying mistakes in order to prevent their repetition in Ukraine.

“This war will become for us what in psychology is called a point of post-stress growth. Based on our experience and analysis of the best international practices, we will build in Ukraine one of the most effective mental health support systems in the world, where everyone who needs it can get help. To do this, together with our partners, we develop laws and bylaws, train specialists, and create rules according to which the system will work. I am sure that we are on the right track, because after the war millions of Ukrainians will need help in the field of mental health. And the state will be ready to provide it,” said Health Minister Viktor Liashko.

In cooperation and with the expert support of WHO, a single coordination center for developing solutions and implementing the National Mental Health Program has been established — the Project Office under the Cabinet of Ministers. In the future, projects developed and implemented by ministries will be tested in the Project Office to avoid duplication and to ensure that they meet all requirements and international standards.

It should be recalled that the first strategic session of the Interdepartmental Coordination Council on mental health and psychological assistance to persons affected by the armed aggression of the RF was held in the summer with the participation of First Lady Olena Zelenska, representatives of a number of ministries and departments, the Verkhovna Rada, international organizations, experts. It was devoted to the development of targeted mental health services for various groups of the population.

“It is extremely important that all departments are active participants in this interaction. We do not have time for long-term experiments, so the best international experience collected in cooperation with Belgium, USA, Great Britain and Israel shows what elements can be adapted for the service model in Ukraine. I would like to express my gratitude to the World Health Organization and USAID for understanding our needs and providing comprehensive assistance to Ukraine. And today it is becoming increasingly clear that the unique experience that, unfortunately, Ukraine is going through will allow our country to add its cases and practices to the global baggage of mental health,” Olena Zelenska said.

The National Mental Health Program is an initiative of First Lady Olena Zelenska, which aims to help citizens overcome war-related stress and the consequences of traumatic events, and prevent the development of mental disorders. The development and implementation of the program are coordinated by the Ministry of Health of Ukraine in close cooperation with Ukrainian and international specialists. The initiative is being implemented with the support of the World Health Organization.

“I understand that the phrase “we will be included in textbooks” sounds ambiguous, but this is inevitable. So it will be. And it now depends on us what will be included there — I would like it to be a successful case, how the whole country, every person, overcame the trials of war, first of all psychological, in themselves.” - summed up the first lady.