Pacific Northwest psychologists heading to Ukraine to support mental health of refugees

When Dr. John Thoburn heard about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine he took careful note, because there was a good chance that he would be heading straight to it.Dr. Thoburn lives in Liberty Lake now, but he’s spent his career focused on Disaster Psychology, visiting places like Bosnia and Haiti and parts of Africa, providing mental health training. Now he and his team are heading to Ukraine and the refugee camps surrounding that country.Dr. Thoburn is part of an elite group of mental health professionals called PsyCorps. They travel the world, visiting hard hit areas to train locals who will then be able to provide mental health support to others in the community. With the physical and psychological toll Ukrainians are suffering due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, PsyCorps has been invited by the Honorary Consulate of Ukraine in Seattle, in collaboration with Lesya Ukrainka Volyn National University and the Rector of Paltova Seminary, to train community volunteers, as well as educators and medical personnel in mental health first aid and traumatology.”We found that training people from the community is much more effective than having people come from the outside who don’t really know the culture,” says Dr. Thoburn. “If you’re a medical doctor and you’re fixing a bone it doesn’t matter what language you speak. But if you’re doing mental health work, it’s better to speak the same language and come from the same culture. And that’s why we train these locals to offer mental health support to friends and family.”The team uses a “Process Model”, focused on teaching listening skills, the installation of hope, and mindfulness. “Mindfulness is about focusing on living in the moment,” Dr. Thoburn says, “rather than living in the past with its anxieties, or the future with its fears.”Dr. Thoburn says that about 10% of those who go through a disaster or traumatic event develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In war-torn areas, that goes up to nearly 25%, or about 1 in 4 people suffering from PTSD. “When you think about a traumatic event– like a war– you think first about providing food, water, lodging, and that’s absolutely necessary,” says Dr. Thoburn. “Then you think about medical aid, which again is necessary. But we think that mental health is as important.”If you’d like to help the team in their effort CLICK HERE If you’d like to learn more about Psycorps please see the sidebar link

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