Ukrainian-language video series with mental health experts on effects of COVID-19

Mariana Karapinka for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The current global COVID-19 pandemic has created an urgent need to provide information to the public regarding its effects and coping mechanisms. Although there is plenty of information circulating on the Internet about the effects of COVID-19 on our physical health and the economy, there is a lack of information on how it may affect our mental health, in the Ukrainian language.

As a result, an online educational information series in the Ukrainian language has been created by Yana Kreminska and Adriana Luhovy on the effects of COVID-19 and quarantine on mental health.

Their project is called “Серія: Впоратися з викликом COVID-19” (“Coping with the effects of COVID-19”). Filming of this series began on April 15, 2020, with their first video viewable online on April 29.

“We wanted to combine our skills and knowledge,” stated Adriana Luhovy. “We thought such a series was needed and could be very effective.” Both Luhovy and Kreminska’s professional background lends itself to this important video project which is quickly gaining a following.

Yana Kreminska, originally from Ukraine, is a psychologist and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and schema therapy (ST) psychotherapist by profession, currently working towards transferring her credentials to practice in Ontario. She worked as a clinical practitioner for over six years at the Mental Heath Institute at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Lviv, Ukraine and as the Manager of the Psychological Counseling Center at UCU. Her clinical practice experience also includes working at the Lviv based “Kolo Simii” which focuses on mental health in children and their families. (k-s.org.ua). Having moved to Toronto in 2018, she completed a Human Resources Management program, and is currently with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

After the first initial shock of the reality of COVID-19 and quarantine, Kreminska noticed that there was little quality Ukrainian content on mental health online.

“Unfortunately, there is a lot of inaccurate and misleading information on the theme of the pandemic and mental health,” Kreminska said. “There is an incredible team of professionals in Ukraine, which does not have enough exposure to a larger audience. There is still a strong stigma against mental health and psychology currently present in Ukraine.”

Kreminska reached out to her colleagues who agreed to be interviewed, supporting the project. The videos created by Kreminska and Luhovy are one way to push back against this stigma.

“The more society is exposed to the topics of mental health, the more it will become the norm. It is important to always think of mental health as health,” Kreminska stated.

Adriana Luhovy’s professional background helped make the project happen. She completed Communication Studies from Concordia University, Digital Design from Vancouver Film School and Design for Social Change at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She worked at a human rights organization in New York City, before embarking on the Canadian medical missions to Ukraine organized by Canada-Ukraine Foundation in Ukraine. Luhovy’s documentaries include the award-winning film “Recovery Room” (“Oblychia Vijny”, the Ukrainian version), about Canadian humanitarian medical missions aiding injured Ukrainian soldiers in the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine; “Shores of Freedom”, about the third wave of Ukrainian immigration to Canada; and “Second Chance” about Canadian volunteers aiding orphaned children in Ukraine.

“I have a passion for projects which can raise awareness about important initiatives, this is such a project,” Luhovy said. “Everyone in the world is currently affected because of COVID-19, and we all deserve to know from professionals how to best cope and what to expect.”

Like millions of others in Canada and world-wide, Luhovy’s work has been suddenly affected due to the crisis. Quarantine makes it almost impossible to continue to find work as a freelance videographer and photographer. All public gatherings have been put on hold indefinitely, all contracts cancelled.

“I was excited to be a part of this project idea from the very beginning. It is timely, and it is urgently needed. We hope we can help others through this initiative,” she said.

The filmed interviews with mental health experts were conducted in Ukrainian. So far, two videos have been completed and one has been translated into English. Interviews last up to an hour, and are then edited into approximately 10 minute segments, with captions inserted highlighting specific ideas. Luhovy also creates motion-graphic animations.

“We try to complete the videos as quickly as possible, however they do take time and a lot of work,” Luhovy said.

The first interview was with Dr. Dennis Ougrin, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation. Dr. Ougrin is also Course Director for the MSc in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IOPPN), Kings College, London and Editor in Chief of the medical journal “Child and Adolescent Mental Health”.

In the video titled “Як карантин впливає на психічне здоров’я дітей (How quarantine affects mental health of children)”, Dr. Ougrin speaks about the positive and negative effects of quarantine on children’s mental health. On the one hand, “There is a massive number of children, who feel much better and their mental health is likely improving”, he explains. He suggests some possible explanations can be related to children staying at home, not experiencing school and exam related stress as a factor. However, “The unfortunate negative effects of the pandemic and quarantine on some children include a rise in child abuse: physical, sexual and emotional”, Dr. Ougrin states.

On April 16, the second interview was conducted with mental health expert Dr. Oleh Romanchuk, a Psychiatrist, Director of the Mental Health Institute at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. The video, twelve minutes long, discusses “Як Розвивати Резилієнтність (How to Develop Resilience)”, in Ukrainian. This video became their first completed video to be officially launched online, on April 29th.

In this video, Dr. Romanchuk introduces the subject and outlines the important elements for developing resilience. They include: a way to perceive your current situation in a healthy and more adaptable way, creating resilient actions and behaviours that correlate with a resilient mind-set, taking care of ourselves, celebrating life and understanding what helps to live life to the fullest, and other steps.

“Як Розвивати Резилієнтність” with Dr. Romanchuk has been viewed over 7.3 thousand times, with over 216 shares on the Ukrainian Institute of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (UICBT) Facebook Page: (Український інститут когнітивно-поведінкової терапії) (facebook.com/UICBT/).

You may follow the Ukrainian-language online video series by visiting the “Week Five Productions” website (www.weekfiveproductions.com) .

“Yana and I decided to call ourselves ‘Week Five Productions’, as the idea of this video series originated during the fifth week of quarantine due to COVID-19,” Luhovy explains. “We hope we can continue working together in the future.”

This project will complement the many efforts in the community to bring information about the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health to the public.

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