Rinat Akhmetov Foundation Psychologists Begin Providing Support to Citizens and Doctors

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, there have been hundreds — if not thousands — of attacks on the country’s health care facilities. In the first eight months of the war alone, the World Health Organization confirmed that almost 600 attacks on such facilities had already occurred, with hospitals and other critical medical infrastructure damaged or destroyed.

While hospitals can be rebuilt, ambulances replaced, and medical supplies replenished, the human toll will take time to repair. Scores of health care workers have been killed, millions of Ukrainian citizens are displaced internally, and millions more are living as refugees in countries across the world. And this is where billionaire businessman Rinat Akhmetov and his charitable foundation have stepped in.

Ukraine’s Looming Mental Health Crisis

Perhaps most damaging of all is the war’s impact on mental health. Just six months after the war began, CARE International estimated that one-third of the 10 million women and children negatively impacted by the devastation were at risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or anxiety. That number is likely much higher now.

“The fear and grief that wars create leave deep internal scars — scars that hurt every bit as much, if not more, than physical scars. Left unaddressed, this fear and grief can have a profound long-term, negative impact and lead to a range of serious mental health issues or even suicide,” said Isadora Quay, CARE International’s global gender in emergencies coordinator.

To mitigate Ukraine’s looming mental health crisis, some local charities have stepped in to provide support to citizens who are struggling with both new and preexisting conditions. The greatest needs are in areas the most severely impacted by the war, but populations in other parts of the country are also affected by problems such as anxiety, sadness, and anger.

The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s psychologists have recently visited the city of Okhtyrka — one of the first cities to be hit by the war — where they held consultations for residents.

“Everyone has their own loss. The families of the victims were present at the consultation. There were families who suffered for other reasons. All participants were traumatized in some way. And we worked with four women who lost their husbands as a result of an airstrike on the thermal power plant on March 3, 2022,” explains Yanina Astafieva, a psychologist of the foundation and a member of Ukraine’s National Psychological Association, in a recent press release published on the foundation’s website.

Consultations for Sumy Oblast Doctors

It’s not only Ukraine’s citizens who feel the impact of war taking its toll on their mental health. Medical workers, including doctors, have also been receiving support from the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation.

Mobile teams of psychologists from the foundation, who have been traveling across Ukraine, recently visited the city of Krolevets in the Sumy oblast, where medical workers discussed how they could overcome stress during the war.

“It is very useful because our doctors work under the same stress that the whole country is experiencing,” said Krolevets’ therapist Olena Alekseenko. “They have families, and half of the people have relatives at the front. And we have been living in this war since 2014, and many of our relatives have been fighting all this time. Almost every family is affected by this stress. Therefore, it is very important for us.”

According to the foundation’s psychologists, the goal of such stress consultations is to inform participants about how stress impacts the body and how they can live with it under existing conditions. The second goal is to provide practical exercises. “So that every person has, as it were, a box from which you can get something and ‘attach’ it to yourself, to a child, to a patient,” explains Astafieva.

Providing Psychological Support Since 2014

The psychological initiative is not a new project for the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation; it began in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Since then, more than 145,000 residents of Ukraine have received psychological assistance from the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, which has trained more than 250 psychologists for this purpose as part of its Trauma of War course.

Since the outbreak of war, in partnership with Metinvest Group, the foundation has allocated more than 3 billion hryvnia (about $81.21 million) to various humanitarian aid projects.

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