UNDP Supports Psychological Assistance to IDPs in Ukraine
12 Dec 2014
On December 11-12, 2014, as a part of the UNDP measures in Ukraine aimed at providing assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs), volunteers in Dnipropetrovsk were trained to provide more qualified assistance, such as psychological first aid, prevention of emotional burnout, and case management of IDPs, to people who have left the area of armed conflict.
There has been a high concentration of displaced persons in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, as the region is located close to the area of armed conflict in the Eastern part of Ukraine.
“The UNDP is responsive to the needs of IDPs in Ukraine. Many displaced people are faced with the challenges of psychological and social rehabilitation, a lack of faith in the future, apathy or anxiety due to the uncertainty in new places of residence, and the deteriorating situation back home. These people need help. Meanwhile social workers and volunteers who assist displaced people also need help, as many experience emotional burnout and stress, and often feel that they lack the skills to provide good quality psychological support to the IDPs. During a recent visit to the city of Dnipropetrovsk by Mr. Neal Walker, the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine, the civic organization “Dopomoga Dnipra” approached the UNDP and asked us to conduct a workshop for volonteers. We immediately responded to their request and organized this training,” said Olena Ivanova, project manager of the UNDP project “Support to the Social Sector Reform in Ukraine”.
During two-day workshop, coach and psychologist Susana Angelova helped the participants to understand and master the skills of psychological first aid and crisis intervention. Volunteers were also taught to overcome extreme stress, which leads to professional burnout.
“Anyone can provide psychological first aid – urgent help to relieve another person’s extreme emotions or reactions due to stress, cataclysm, war, etc. It is easy to learn and one does not need to be a qualified professional to do it. Of course, people displaced from an area of conflict need continuous psychological support and monitoring of their condition, and this is already a responsibility of professional psychologists,” explained Susana Angelova, tutor at the National Medical Academy for Postgraduate Studies of P. Shupyk and a consultant with the Sofia Centre of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Applied Psychology.
The workshop participants developed skills through practice in psychological first aid and crisis intervention. Practice was conducted in a game form, which facilitated better understanding of the process .
“I’m grateful to the UNDP in Ukraine for the opportunity to take part in this training. It is very timely as for almost a year our volunteer organization, Self-Defence of Maidan, has been helping to collect and dispatch humanitarian aid for displaced people, as well as assist with other needs of IDPs, and it has turned out to be a huge stress for the volunteers themselves, leading to illness in some of them. Therefore, the training is very useful for us to assist ourselves, and displaced people,” said Sergiy Ivanchenko, volunteer and chief officer of Self-Defence of Maidan in Dnipropetrovska oblast.
During the training, Dr. Natalia Gusak, PhD. in Social Sciences, explained to participants how to set up a case management approach to each displaced person.
“Case management is a social work approach that allows the provision of comprehensive assistance to people who are faced with difficult circumstances. Case management helps to monitor the well-being of each displaced person and helps to make sure that no one is left behind or missed out. I hope that the volunteers will be enthusiastic about incorporating the case management approach into their practice, as this provides integrity to their work with IDPs,” explained Olena Ivanova.
Such training for volunteers will also be held with the UNDP support in other cities of Ukraine through January and February 2015, namely in Kharkiv, Kyiv, Poltava, Odessa, Zaporizhya, Donetska and Luhanska oblasts.
Overall, the United Nations Development Programme in Ukraine has developed a range of measures to support internally displaced persons, as well as volunteers and social workers who assist IDPs.
“The UNDP aims to help community organizations, volunteer initiatives, and government to cope with the challenges of today and to successfully develop new long-term programmes of support for displaced persons. The primary goal of the UNDP psychological help programme is to develop the capacity of volunteers, as well as of social workers and psychologists employed by local administrations and social protection departments. Capacity building is implemented through training programmes, grants and development of supportive materials. For example, as a result of the UNDP grant contest, the NGO “Aware People” could make its psychological hotline available 24/7 and make consultation visits to the places of compact settlement of IDPs. With UNDP support, about 200 volunteers and social workers from Ukraine, in particular from Donetska and Luhanska oblasts, were trained to provide psychological first aid to internally displaced people and people living in the areas of unrest, including children, and were also taught skills to overcome and prevent emotional and professional burnout. We also brought in international expertise, such as a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist from Georgia, who shared their experience of IDPs’ psychological recovery following the 2008 events. Among other trainers, we involved experts from the Research Institute of Social and Forensic Psychiatry of Ukraine, the Institute of Social Studies of O. Yaremenko, and practical psychologists of Maidan Psychological Service. We also compiled, printed and distributed Guidelines for providing psychological first aid to displaced persons, as well as a Roadmap for IDPs that includes psychological advice and contact information for volunteer psychologists,” summarized Olena Ivanova.