Inside The Trauma Centers Treating Ukraine’s Veterans

Since early 2014, tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops have taken part in a bloody war with pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine. Over 9,100 soldiers have died and over 20,000 have been injured, according to a December 2015 United Nations report.

But for many Ukrainian soldiers returning home, there is a battle that can’t be fought with rifles and tanks: psychological trauma. And it isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

Over the past year, experts have recorded an increase in domestic violence and high levels of alcohol abuse and suicide among Ukrainian war veterans, the Wilson Center noted in a report published Tuesday.

Yet Ukraine’s soldiers have been reluctant to seek treatment for post-war mental trauma, Ioana Moldovan, a photojournalist who visited Ukraine in 2015 to document soldiers receiving psychological treatment, told The WorldPost in an email Wednesday. Many soldiers feel that psychologists will prevent them from serving in the army, the International Business Times reported in April. Others avoid talking about emotional problems in general, as mental illnesses have typically been considered a taboo in Ukrainian society.

“In Ukrainian society, the word ‘psychologist’ scares people,” Moldovan said.

Psychologists in Ukraine are working to change that.

In April 2014, Col. Dr. Vsevolod Stebliuk, a medical adviser for Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, founded a center to treat physical and psychological traumas at the Irpin Military Hospital, located in a forest outside Kiev. Stebliuk himself suffered a period of psychological trauma after working as an anesthesiologist at Ilovaysk, where over 600 people died in clashes between troops and separatists in August 2014.

“From my experience, near 50 percent of the soldiers who took part in ATO [anti-terrorist operations] need psychological help,” Stebliuk told Moldovan.

The center provides soldiers with ergotherapy, or treatment through physical —> Read More