John T. and his team visiting city of Chernivtsi, Ukraine.
June 24th.-July 9th
A team of four psychologists are currently on the ground in Ukraine offering mental health support training at three major universities in Chernitsvi, Lutsk and Lviv.
The trip started with a mental health incident on our flight. Jeff and I (mostly Jeff) had to intervene and if we had not the flight would have turned back. The flight crew were super grateful and Jeff was the BMOG for the rest of the flight (they gave us booze) The team arrived in Lviv June 25 and will stay through July 9, 2022.
The initial training, in Chernitsvi, of 62 participants, included doctors, psychologists, social workers, first responders, students, administrators and educators. Interestingly, on the first day of training there was an air raid siren and we all had to go to the university’s basement, where we continued training until the all-clear sounded. The war is never very far off here. The trainings could not have gone better.
People learned, were moved and inspired. There were a lot of tears and hugs at the end. Five universities have indicated a desire for some kind of collaborative relationship with PsyCorps in the future. We are off to Lutsk tomorrow and will present a seminar on Adult trauma treatment at Lesya United University. We continue to be moved and inspired by the humble courage and generosity of the Ukrainian people. Donations are still being accepted on the Godundme PsyCorps page. We will keep you updated!
Psychology Support International is an organization of clinical and family psychologists in the Pacific Northwest providing mental health first aid training to community volunteers who then give mental health support to survivors of natural or man-made disasters (such as earthquakes or war).
Disaster response research has consistently pointed to the need for psychological care for disaster survivors. Research has also found that disaster survivors appear to benefit most from helping networks that occur within the context of natural social routines, which utilize preexisting social support such as friends and family. The PsyCorps curriculum is focused on strengthening social and family networks by training a cadre of community caregiver volunteers who can provide mental health support to survivors.
Because of the physical and psychological toll Ukrainians are suffering due to the ongoing war with Russia, it is not an exaggeration to say that every single person in Ukraine is experiencing some amount of trauma. And the impact of the war will not stop when the war ends. It shows tremendous foresight that government and church organizations are planning ahead about how to best alleviate the mental health effects of this war, once the war has ended.
Eighty-nine percent of mental health care providers work in an inpatient setting, mainly treating psychosis or substance abuse. It is, therefore, impossible to send every person with mental health needs to a specialist The psychological support trainings focused on providing military leaders, medical personnel, church leaders, and the many homegrown volunteers with basic training in psychological first aid and mental health suppprt are intended to supplement professional aid. When the need is so high as it is and will continue to be be in Ukraine, mental health support will come from family, friends, community leaders, and volunteers. PsyCorps was invited by the Honorary Consulate of Ukraine in Seattle, in collaboration with Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University and the Rector of Paltova Seminary, to train community volunteers, as well as educators and medical personnel to provide training in mental health first aid and traumatology.
A team of four top-tier psychologists versed in trauma psychology, traveled to the cities of Lviv, Rivne, Chernivtsi and Lutsk for two weeks, June 25 through July 9, 2022. The team gave presentations on treatment of child and adult trauma and trained volunteers in the PsyCorps curriculum for mental health support at diverse settings, including, the National University in Chernivtsi, Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University, the Ukrainian Church of the Evangelical Christian Faith and the head of the military administration of the Vyzhnytskyi district in the Chernivtsi region, organized by Mykola Strynada, a priest of the Protestant church.
At each place, we were welcomed with gratitude & tremendous desire to learn. So many Ukrainians shared their stories and hearts with us. The sincere dedication of every leader & volunteer to supporting their communities was a master class in servant leadership.
Ukraine is beautiful. We travelled from north to south across the western region and saw bright sunflower fields, rolling farmland, small forested mountains, villages, and the beautiful old cities of Lutsk and Lviv. We spent a lovely two nights in the mountain village of Lekechi where our evening walks were interrupted by the very charming sight of a shepherd returning his sheep from pasture to home . I loved the small roadside mini-churches. In contrast to the beauty, however, were signs everywhere of the war, even in the ”safe zones” of the west. From the moment we crossed the border, there were military checkpoints at night & all major roads had anti-tank barricades. It took us nearly two hours to cross the border from Poland into Ukraine, and over 3 to return - this was *with* a diplomatic pass.
Our work ended on July 7 with a PsyCorps training in the city of Vyzhnytsia, where we received an invitation from the deputy head of the military administration of the Chernivtsi region, Ms. Iryna Isopenko, to work in the field of rehabilitation of soldiers at the level of the entire region. We intend to Ukraine in the month of October and focus on training trainers to continue the work of providing mental health support. Our work will center in the Chernivtsi region and we will also travel to Kyiv. We look forward to seeing all the brave and steadfast friends we left behind.
John Thoburn, Ph.D., ABPP
Jeff Holguin, Ph.D.
Amy Mezulis, Ph.D.
Christopher Tobey, Ph.D. ABPP