Defenders of Ukraine Project Makes Strides in Psychological Healing of Ukrainian Veterans

Victor Hetmanczuk, Canada Ukraine Foundation for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

In June 2018, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) and Canada Ukraine Foundation (CUF) announced the successful grant recipients from the Defenders of Ukraine Fund.

A total of $100,000 will be distributed among four projects, to be used for the rehabilitation and benefit of Ukraine’s wounded soldiers and veterans. The successful recipients are:

  • Ukrainian Social Academy for “Boots to Business” entrepreneurship training program for veterans
  • Donbas ATO Veterans Union, Centre Poruch for psychological support of veterans and their families
  • Veterans House for ATO veterans providing temporary shelter and rehabilitation programs
  • Pobratymy & Dopomoha Ukraini, “Training in Overcoming Combat Shock Trauma and Preventing PTSD for Veterans”

One key factor in evaluating the projects has been the use of evidence-based methodology by its organizers.

This project followed the training created by Ditte Marcher, Director of Bodynamics International, and is based on the 30 years of experience working in the war zones. The training was first carried out in Denmark for the Danish veterans in 2013-2014. The first training in Ukraine was taught by Ditte Marcher and the Ukrainian assistants in 2015 based on the contract and the request of the Healing War Scars organization. Four groups of veterans graduated the training based on this methodology in 2016, two of these by the “Pobratymy” organization and two groups (1.0 and 2.0) by Healing War Scars.

The training consists of the 4 levels. At each level, the veterans are expected to increase awareness of their own psychological states, start to create the safe places and find safe people; the veterans are provided with the opportunity to find and realize resources for rehabilitation in one’s own body; the participants investigate their own shock history and assimilate the peak experience; the veterans are provided with the opportunity for reorientation and post traumatic growth.

In order to estimate effectiveness at the different training stages, the following physiological evaluation methods have been used: PTSD probability evaluation and symptoms manifestation, Mississippi scale for traumatic reactions evaluations, Dissociation disorder, Depression disorders, Post traumatic growth evaluation and employment Risk and Resiliency Inventory-2.

Pobratymy Report on Peer Support Groups (by Ivona Kostyna)

Under the Defenders of Ukraine Project, from 24th of July till 20th of December 2018, Public Organization Ukrainian Public Union “Pobratymy” has conducted 44 Peer Support Groups for veterans and their spouses on a regular basis at the Veteran Hub in Kyiv. Throughout the project, there were 157 veterans and 182 wives involved.

The support groups were held as open meetings based on the “Peer-to-peer” principal. Peer Support Group is a special format of group work, where members of the group can share their experiences and difficulties not only about warfare and waiting for their spouses from war, but also the experience of the consequences of the traumatic events.

There are some rules established such as confidentiality, the prohibition of alcohol and drugs, the criticism of the participants of the peer support group, giving advice and political discussions.

The groups were led by professional psychologist and veteran Andriy Kozinchuk while the graduates of past psychotherapeutic training organized by Pobratymy and volunteers from veterans or their wives assisted.

Groups have been given the opportunity to free up from the behavior of aggression, receive support from individuals with related experience and verbalize those topics that are not widely spoken in society. Fear, the lack of identification in civil activities, anxiety, feeling of guilt, lack of emotions or aggressive behavior towards loved ones are the main topics that rise at peer support groups. The participants have been given the opportunity not only to think about these kinds of unpopular topics, but to talk about them. A peer support group is a place where you can say everything you cannot say anywhere else and feel secure.

As a result of peer support groups, three veterans discovered new kinds of activities for themselves and five veterans strengthened themselves in their actual activities. According to their words, relations in their families have improved and the level of communication with children has increased. We can’t affirm that this was all because of peer support groups, but the indirect influence of it was confirmed by the participants themselves.

Personal stories (Written with the permission of the participants):

Oleksiy, 26 years old. He was seriously injured, due to that he is limited in heavy physical activity. He had problems communicating with his family. To solve this problem, he had to go to a psychiatric hospital. With the support of the group, he overcame communication problems, successfully passed a course of treatment in a psychiatric hospital and discovered a new activity for himself – a sand therapy.

Andriy, 36 years old. He had difficulties in the family and at work. Through systematic meetings, he improved communication with his wife, solved the issues at work and took new projects. Andriy has a strong desire to be a co-trainer of the Peer Support Group.

Each member of the group has its own story and is proud of it. We at Pobratymy and Dopomoha Ukraini are proud of our participants.

To continue the program in 2019, Canada Ukraine Foundation requests assistance to raise $26,000. Tax receipts available.

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