Canadian Organizations Offering Trauma Support for Ukrainian Newcomers and Families – National

Mental health professionals are volunteering their services to provide trauma support to Ukrainian Canadians and new arrivals fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Shortly after the war began in late February, Alexandra Froese began listening to Ukrainian Canadians seeking support as they watched and mourned the siege of their homeland.

“They are experiencing tremendous anguish and helplessness as they watch the events unfold or … support their family members who come here, or mourn the loss of their family members,” Froese said.

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“Ukrainians who are in Canada might need just as much help as Ukrainians who come here.”

Froese, who was born and raised in the Ukraine, is a registered psychologist based in Saskatoon. She said that although her parents still in Ukraine are physically unharmed, she is not immune to the pain Ukrainian Canadians feel.

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She wanted to use her experience in the fields of trauma and grief to help her people.

“I feel empowered by what I can do or at least what I can try to do here.”

Click to play video: 'Ukrainian family fleeing war finds new home in Nova Scotia'

Ukrainian family fleeing war finds new home in Nova Scotia

Ukrainian family fleeing war finds new home in Nova Scotia – April 29, 2022

Froese began working as a volunteer. She said she created a self-help workbook, written in Ukrainian, and gave it to organizations that help people fleeing the Eastern European country. She is also working with a group of volunteers to create a website with easily accessible mental health resources.

Providing people with basic mental health information and education can help them feel calm and safe, Froese said.

“After traumatic events, many of us are able to bounce back fairly quickly and with perhaps minimal support. (This) is a little bit more about sorting and classifying people’s needs.”

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Dr. Dillon Browne, a Canada Research Professor in clinical child and family psychology at the University of Waterloo, has been tracking how social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are presenting the war.

Browne has done extensive research on children’s mental health, including the effects of digital media.

It found that people in Ukraine are posting videos or streaming graphical attacks live.

“There’s a lot of really heavy stuff out there,” Browne said in a phone interview with The Canadian Press. “That led me to wonder if there is anything we can do.”

The level of vulnerability varies in people who watch war content online, Browne said. She stressed that it’s not uncommon for kids to have nightmares about worrying things they see in the media.

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With no choice but to flee, Ukrainian refugees find stability in Saskatchewan

With no choice but to flee, Ukrainian refugees find stability in Saskatchewan

Browne decided to contact his colleagues in Ontario to gauge their interest in volunteering their support. He found that the response was overwhelmingly in favour.

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“We were skeptical that there would be an appetite for this given the fatigue that everyone is going through (during the COVID-19 pandemic),” he said. “It seems that (the invasion) revived something in people because it is a terrible and appalling situation.”

The Canadian Psychological Association has picked up on Browne’s lead and is developing a list of psychologists across the country who are willing to donate their services to Ukrainian Canadians distressed by the war.

The association says there are significant barriers to psychological services in Canada, including those related to insurance coverage, supply and waiting times.

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Elsewhere in Canada, efforts are underway to mobilize mental health support for Ukrainians coming to Canada.

The Alberta Psychologists Association has commissioned one of its members to put together a directory of mental health supports for newcomers. It also urges psychologists who wish to volunteer to contact the Canadian association.

The Center for Refugee Resilience, through the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, is helping people who support Ukrainian families. The center helps immigrants, refugees, and their families who may be dealing with trauma.

The need for groups to work together to ensure mental health supports are included in resettlement efforts points to a larger problem, Browne said: the lack of publicly funded mental health programs in the country.

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“The fact that we have to do something like this tells you that our system is broken.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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