How does support from psychiatric associations work in times of war? Does it help?
The war in Ukraine has set our solidarity on test. On the one hand, we all want to express our sincere support and acknowledge for the suffering and struggle for freedom by the Ukrainian people from an aggressive intruder. On the other hand, we want to keep up the contact with our colleagues also in Russia since they are members of our international organizations and because we believe that peace and normal life will return and then it is important to have them on board and not isolated from rest of the world.
Both the World psychiatric association (WPA) and the European psychiatric association (EPA) have issued several statements on the current war with clear messages of the devastating effect of the atrocities on the mental health of the Ukrainian population. These statements are unanimous on addressing the Russia and president Putin as the culprit, pleading the Russian government to cease the war. WPA has also earlier made statements in conflict situation, the most recent being the war in Syria.
Both WPA and EPA have in addition to statements also offered support in the form of work force, drugs and medical devices and funds for the benefit of support to the groups working with mental health in Ukraine and on the borders to Ukraine with huge number of refugees. The organizations have also asked the national organizations to do the same. The support is often made via organizations already working on strengthening the psychosocial care.
These statements will of course not change the direction of the war or make any impact on the president of Russia. So why do we continue to do it? First, it is for our own sake. In times of war so close to our own borders most of us will get a feeling of apathy. How can I make any difference? The situation is so devastating and many of us feel unable to make any contribution to ease the burden of the Ukrainian people. In these times we need to change from apathy to action and making statements and give contribution might be small, but important steps to get involved.
Secondly, for the Ukrainian people and specially our colleagues in Ukraine the sense of not standing alone in the struggle and feeling solidarity from the world around are important contributions to keep up their very vital work for mental health among those needing continuity of care of any mental health disorders. We know that many people and especially the elderly and those suffering from serious mental health disorders are those left behind when people are fleeing.
Thirdly, the EPA has also close cooperation with the neighboring countries of Ukraine where most people are now escaping. These countries also need our solidarity and support. For countries like Poland the system are stretched to their limits and we need to help wherever refugees are seeking shelter. We also need to keep contact with Russian colleagues to inform on how we perceive the war to reduce the information gap that we now know exist in Russia.