As a Ukrainian living in the UK this is how I look after my own mental health
Yuliia Matalinets is from Ukraine. She was matched with hosts in Bristol by Reset. Here she reflects on what helps her manage her mental health after she was forcibly displaced.
By Yuliia Matalinets
Perhaps I should start this article with the information that visits to mental health specialists are something that is not very typical for our culture.
Talking about your feelings and sadness was always seen as complaining, and you can be immediately perceived as someone who is whining. Probably every second Ukrainian man or woman a little over twenty-five (I emphasise this because now there is a tendency among young parents to talk to their their children about mental health, and this is wonderful!) heard from their parents “Why are you complaining about life?! When I was your age…etc.”
I do not blame anyone’s parents for this – they raised their kids as best they could and thought it was right, but this has consequences. And the consequences are that it is very difficult for us to admit that we need help.
I met exactly zero Ukrainians who fled the war and have perfect mental health. Everyone is anxious at least, seriously depressed at worst.
It is impossible to be calm when your world is collapsing around you and you hear more and more dreadful news every day.
And here you are in a safe place. Now everything should be fine, right? But every day you read the news, you cry and miss your old life, your friends and family, and you worry about them terribly.
It is very scary to be far from your home where you do not know the local language well enough to express your emotions and or tell other people how you really feel.
I do not have a special psychological training but I would like to share what helps me manage my mental health. These might not be for everyone – use them only if they help you!
· Please do seek specialist help if you need it – this is the very first step. Maybe you just need a few appointments, but the main thing is to start. Try to do it as soon as possible.
· Try to keep the house/your room clean and tidy, this will help your mind to feel more organized. This may seem like a strange tip, but it really works for me!
· Communicate with people. It’s okay to give yourself some time to be alone, but even a short conversation with a loved one or a friend can be very therapeutic.
· The war has destroyed our plans, but make them anyway – plan each day and be as busy as possible, even if it is a short trip to the shops.
· Do something for yourself every day. You are allowed to be a little selfish!
· It’s OK to have days where you just want to be alone, but try not to let this go on for too long. Although it can be tempting to stay in your room you will feel better if you get out and see other people.
· Find your nearest Ukrainian social hub. There will be one in your nearest city! It’s so comforting to spend some evenings in the relaxed atmosphere with fellow Ukrainians, and you can never have too many friends!
· Don’t spend too much time watching the news. I try to limit myself to 15 minutes a day.
· Doing something positive like volunteering really helps me to feel better. Look for opportunities to help others – by helping each other we become stronger!
Finally, don’t be ashamed of your feelings and ask for help if you need it.
P.S.I have got only this simple advice for hosts: please be sensitive with your guests, support them if you can and keep your hearts open for a new friendship.
We are very grateful for your hospitality!
Links to mental health resources that my friends and I have found useful:
1) It’s Complicated.
Offers free, online consulting to anyone directly affected by the war in Ukraine.
Most counsellors are English-speaking, but some speak Ukrainian and/or Russian, and each listed counsellor commits to a minimum of 4 sessions (45min-1hour).
7) Strong. This charitable foundation provides psychological assistance to victims of sexual violence during the war. Clinical psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists work for the foundation, who conduct treatment sessions free of charge. The fund also helps organize legal consultations and pay for medical services.
8) Her Support. Wonderzine Ukraine has developed a platform to help women and representatives of the LGBT community. You can get 3 free sessions with a psychologist. For this, you need to submit an application in the chatbot (Telegram app):
9) SafeWomenHUB. The platform was created to provide free emergency psychological, socio-legal and humanitarian assistance to women and girls affected by war, and to raise their awareness about the prevention of various forms of violence, including sexual violence. More information and an appointment with a specialist is available at Instagram page:
10) On the platform Tell Me, you can get free consultations lasting for 30-60 minutes. Persons who experience anxiety, apathy, panic attacks or other manifestations of depression can find a help here. Please describe your problems and this will help the platform employees to select the appropriate specialist.
11) Psychotherapeutic support for victims of violence, including war-related sexual violence.
The Aurora online platform was created by UNFPA with the assistance of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine and the support of the Government of Great Britain.
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