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  • Valentina Nava

Effects of Ukraine-Russia war on mental health

As you may be aware, war is taking place in Ukraine. Many problems, such as the scarcity of food, water and gas, are affecting several aspects of people's lives. Researchers explain how all the difficulties Ukrainian people have to face affect their mental health in a dangerous way. People who do not live in Ukraine but are watching the ongoing war from social media, are also victims of related mental health issues.

Going to school, the movie theaters, shopping downtown or having dinner with relatives are all activities that Ukrainians were habitually doing before February 24th. The day the “unreal possibility” of a war against Russia became a terrible reality. Now, in some cities like Kyiv, going to the movie theaters, or a bar is something impossible to think of. Most of the people, no matter the age, are living in underground shelters in hopes of getting spared from Russian attacks. In these places water and food, or just heat, are not elements that are present like they were a month ago in citizens' lives. The population feel like their freedom has been taken away and a sense of threat added with fear and loneliness is causing permanent problems to their mental health. A Professor of Psychiatry from Wayne State University, explains how these mental health problems can consist of anxiety, depression or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). These can bring stress, inability to sleep or panic attacks. The professor also points out how these mental disorders may be transferred from the victims onto their offspring by a heritable shift in the genome caused by the constant anxiety. Children that are living in Ukraine right now are also in great danger. Not only do they not have the same safety and comfort they had previously, but they are also witnessing horrible war scenarios. Later in their lives, they might experience mental and/or physical problems. Of course, not everybody who is experiencing trauma right now is going to develop mental health problems in the future. Effects vary from person to person.

We live in an era where social media is prominent in our society. It also plays a big role in the Russia-Ukraine war. People outside of the country are able to “witness” what is going on in Ukraine in a different light than the victims. In order to understand what Ukrainians are experiencing Tik Tok videos, Instagram posts or tweets are used. The amount of content posted online about this new war is so big that it is very difficult not to come across some of it on social media. A professor of psychological science at the University of California Irvine who researches media coverage and trauma, stated that the amount of graphic content we get from social media about the war is affecting people’s mental health. She says it is different from the newspaper or traditional media outlets, where some delicate graphic content is censored or just written and not followed by an image. Social media users can take videos and pictures and suddenly post them online without any censorship or warning on content that may be inappropriate for certain people. Once someone is constantly viewing this strong content, swings in the mood and behavior can occur as a consequence. However, there is a positive side about the role social media plays in this war, since they make people aware of what is happening in Ukraine. They are also the only way the president of the country, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, can communicate with the citizens by giving them messages of support and updates on the current political situation. Psychiatrists encourage social media users to not check online platforms constantly about the ongoing war but instead use them wisely. Try to help the Ukrainian community by giving donations in money, products of first need or just staying close and showing affection to people who have ties to Ukraine.


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