Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature

Battle against the mind: the mental health of Ukraine’s soldiers

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o1921 (Published 05 August 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o1921
  1. Alicia Chen,
  2. Mihir Melwani, freelance journalists
  1. Lviv, Ukraine
  1. yingyu.alicia.chen{at}gmail.com

Ukrainian fighters, on and off the front lines, are feeling the psychological impacts of war, report Alicia Chen and Mihir Melwani

Several weeks after he was critically injured, Dmytro sips a coffee in a wheelchair outside the military hospital. He was rescued from a Russian artillery attack at a village close to Kharkiv, and has since found it challenging to get back to a normal life.

“I worry it will take me a lot of time to get back to living,” says the 45 year old. He declined the hospital’s offer of counselling sessions. “I think I am OK.”

Dmytro says pride may deter Ukraine’s fighters from seeking psychological support. “Some started to drink or even took drugs. A lot of [veterans’] families were broken,” says Dmytro. “Sometimes we say we are OK, but we are not.”

As the Russia-Ukraine war grinds on, the need for psychological support to manage emerging health risks is unprecedented. Ukrainian soldiers trying to keep up morale often overlook their mental health, but the consequences can be dire.

“Psychological support is crucial and it’s one of the most critical needs right now,” Andriy Sadoyvi, Lviv’s mayor, told The BMJ in his city’s office. Since 2015, many former soldiers who fought in Donbas have committed suicide, he says. A 2020 study by the Ukrainian Foundation for Public Health found that 57% of veterans need psychological support.1

The deputy minister for veterans’ affairs, …

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