(PORTLAND, OR) May 9, 2022 – Since Russia’s invasion in February, Ukrainians have endured displacement, uncertainty, and the brutalities of war. Widespread trauma is a reality for the 5.5 million people who have fled, as well as the 7.7 million people displaced within Ukraine. Stress and anxiety rates are sky high for men, women, and children as the war rages on. Further, many front-line staff and volunteers serving refugees – from border guards to schoolteachers to refugee shelter managers—are dealing with the effects of secondary trauma.
To address the acute mental health needs of Ukrainians, many of whom have experienced severe trauma and loss, Medical Teams International is calling for increased access to short and long-term mental health services and psychosocial support services (MHPSS).
Medical Teams is currently providing medical care and mental health support to Ukrainians in Moldova, the second poorest country in Europe. According to local experts, mental health issues were not commonly addressed within Moldova prior to the conflict. As such, there is limited local capacity to support this urgent need for those arriving from Ukraine.
“In many countries hosting the world’s 84 million refugees and internally displaced, availability of mental health support is desperately lacking,” said Martha Newsome, Medical Teams President & CEO, who recently returned from Moldova. “However, people who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and war are among those most in need of care. In the U.S., May is Mental Health Awareness Month. We must also advocate for the mental well-being of our global neighbors as we acknowledge and promote the importance of mental health.”
Medical Teams focuses on addressing the well-being of the whole person; therefore, it is prioritizing mental health for Ukrainians, while following its three-part strategy for this crisis response: 1) Medical Teams will continue to support local agencies that are responding to Ukrainians’ health needs, including provision of MHPSS; 2) Medical Teams will strengthen capacity of border physicians and patrol staff to provide first aid, including psychological first aid, and 3) Medical Teams will improve access to clinical care, health screenings, and MHPSS for refugees in refugee accommodation centers and through prepositioned fixed or mobile teams.
To date, Medical Teams has trained more than 70 border patrol staff in Psychological First Aid, Trauma First Aid, and Basic Life-support/CPR. Members of the border patrol medical unit have now been equipped to deliver the Trauma First Aid and Basic Life Support training independently to a wider number of border staff; providing a train-the-trainer approach for psychological first aid that is planned for the next stage of this project.
Medical Teams is liaising with local partners in Moldova who have experience in MHPSS services, and Medical Teams is working to determine how our support could assist local partners to expand their capacity to serve more Ukrainians and Moldovans with mental health needs.
About Medical Teams International
Founded in 1979, Medical Teams International provides life-saving medical care for people in crisis, such as survivors of natural disasters and refugees. We care for the whole person— physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Daring to love like Jesus, we serve all people—regardless of religion, nationality, sex or race. Learn more at medicalteams.org and on social media using @medicalteams.
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