War in Ukraine – Psychological Impacts on Children

By Lucia Puccetti

It has been almost a year since the start of the war in Ukraine. More than 14,000 people have been injured and almost 7,000 killed. Around 7.9 million Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring European countries, amongst these thousands of children have been displaced, and at least 972 children have been injured or killed. What effect will this war have on the mental health of Ukrainian children?

The War in Ukraine has caused displacement on a scale that has not been seen since World War Two. According to humanitarian organisations, more than a third of Ukrainian children  have had to leave their homes and more than a half of Ukrainian children will probably not have a school to return to. Thousands of children are currently hiding in metro stations, bomb shelters and other basements, and infrastructure and families have been destroyed. Thousands of children are forced to live without heating, electricity and water supplies – putting them at a severe risk as winter continues.

Psychiatric and psychological studies show that violence and war leave enduring effects in children and teenagers. Children in Ukraine are at risk of “toxic stress” as stated by the director of Save the Children in Ukraine, Sonia Khush; as well as being prone to suffer from depression, behavioural disorders (such as aggression), anxiety disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), alcohol and substance abuse. Children fleeing the war are also at a higher risk of exploitation and human trafficking. Murat Sahin, a member of UNICEF (United Nations children’s agency) stated that “Every one of Ukraine’s 5.7 million children have trauma”. Nevertheless, it has been seen that many children have tried to find ways to cope with the levels of violence, stress and fear in their daily lives, such as by drawing or painting on the walls of the basements where they are hiding. These types of games and activities are in a way a reflection of the terrible reality of the war they experience daily, but they are also an escape route from all the horror and brutality of the war.

The attached image shows drawings on the wall of a basement, in which more than 300 civilians were held by Russian forces, in the village of Yahidne
Source: The New York Times

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