Tackling psychological trauma in displaced people was the highlight in the latest series of workshops for regional journalists in Ukraine.
The workshops were delivered by the Thomson Foundation and backed by the British Embassy in Kyiv.
Held for the first time in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, journalists heard from clinical psychologist Yulia Shlepakova, who is one of dozens of volunteers helping those newly arrived from the zone of conflict in the east.
“People still feel helpless, some of them for quite a lengthy period,” she said. “We have to help them restore themselves to a more normal frame of mind.”
Along with her fellow volunteers she said they had helped thousands of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) arriving in Dnipropetrovsk with shelter, food and work. In addition, they had provided more than 7,000 psychological counselling sessions for adults and children.
People still feel helpless. We have to help them restore themselves to a more normal frame of mind.
“The first to arrive came from the Crimea and for the most part they were pretty balanced because they hadn’t seen any fighting. But more recently we have found a flood of emotions and sometimes when people are just standing in the crowd waiting for help they get very emotional.”
She also warned that many of those who might be in greatest need of counselling were in hard to reach rural locations. Although local people had generously supported the work of the volunteers she said they were still desperately short of resources.
The regional journalists are the latest to take part in a series of workshops across Ukraine designed to get them to understand the issues affecting IDPs so their stories more accurately reflect the trauma many have suffered.
Other training has already been held in the cities of Kharkiv, Lviv, Poltava, Zaporizhe and one more is to be given in Odessa which will also bring together regional journalists from all over the country.
“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from the participants who say the sheer number of IDPs – now over 1.2 million – is proving a huge strain on Ukraine’s resources,” said David Quin, Thomson Foundation’s deputy director of development.
The Ukrainian journalists believe the training is particularly timely because the public is suffering from a degree of compassion fatigue where IDPs are concerned and they report growing tensions between the new arrivals and the resident population.
Courses for the Regional Voices project are being delivered in collaboration with the Ukrainian Institute for Regional Media and Information (IRMI).
Find out more here: regionalvoices.eu