Newsletter. Continuing to stand for Ukraine

Newsletter No 3 - August 2023 Continuing to stand for Ukraine: mental health and psychosocial support

03.08 2023

Overview of content:
Account of MHHRI project coordinator Anna Fedina
Cooperation with MART
Film & Talk during the HUMAN Documentary film festival
Cooperation with AHALAR
Cooperation with RVTS Nord
The Lesya Ukrainka Theater in visit from Lviv to Oslo
Cooperation with the Norwegian Refugee Council
Helping the Helpers project
MHHRI Teamwork
Download the manual
Upcoming Events


Dear colleagues,

I’m Anna, the project coordinator at MHHRI. A year and a half ago my daughter and I were forced to flee from war in Ukraine to Norway, and we joined the army of millions of displaced persons. Being hospitably met and successfully integrated into the life and work in MHHRI here, in Norway, I was rendered an opportunity to visit my city in Ukraine of which I had become extremely nostalgic for. All my thoughts were about my parents and my dear disabled brother, who were still staying there.

I have just come back from my leave to Ukraine and would like to share my thoughts with you in this newsletter.

Let me shed some more light on the multifaceted challenges that individuals and communities are experiencing during the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. To comprehend the human toll of war, it’s important to recognize the difficulties that people are confronting daily. We know from mass media that the conflict in Ukraine has led to a significant number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees who have had to leave their homes in search of safety. The disruption of livelihoods and social networks has left many struggling to rebuild their lives, and my family is no exception. Even a countless number of war alarms in itself make the lives of the citizens unbearable. You are threatened all the time to be hurt or killed. It exhausts people mentally; they are in a state of constant fear and tension. That’s exactly how I felt during my stay.

Families across Ukraine have suffered immeasurable losses due to the war. The loss of loved ones, homes, and belongings has left a deep emotional impact, leading to grief, trauma, and a sense of hopelessness. From news reports as well as from people’s stories I learned that even basic needs such as food, clean water, and medical care have become scarce in conflict-affected areas. Vulnerable groups of the population, including children and the elderly, are particularly at risk due to limited access to essential services, although numerous local and foreign volunteer groups are trying to help people overcome the situation. The ongoing violence has also resulted in physical injuries and long-lasting health consequences. Additionally, the trauma of witnessing and experiencing violence has taken a toll on the mental health of many individuals, leading to anxiety, depression, and PTSD. At present, providing timely psychological help and assistance to survivors and helpers seems to be extremely crucial.

I am privileged to be a part of the MHHRI team, and the work we are doing is vitally important both for survivors and helpers. In this way, we contribute to maintaining the mental health of my fellow citizens. Below you can see a short overview of our work during the year 2023.

Cooperation with MART

Since its creation in 1999, the activities of the NGO based in Chernihiv, Ukraine, have been aimed at protecting human rights, the rights of children, and protecting and supporting democracy.

Together, we developed a pilot training based on the MHHRI manual “Children exposed to sexual violence”. Aimed at social workers and psychologists in Ukraine, the training also addressed how the war situation can affect helpers. In February and March 2023, Helen Christie and Astri Johnsen held six webinars for a total of 20 hours.

Film & Talk during the HUMAN Documentary film festival
To raise awareness of the situation in Ukraine, we hosted an event together with the HUMAN Documentary film festival on the 7th of March 2023.

After a screening of the film “A House Made of Splinters”, Helen Christie and Nora Sveaass together with Ruslana Burova, head of NGO MART, talked about the impact of war and how to support the work with children that have experienced serious trauma. The film, directed by Simon Lereng Wilmont, followed three children who have been taken from their parents and placed in a temporary orphanage in Eastern Ukraine. The event was sold out.

Cooperation with the National Theatre: The Lesya Ukrainka Theater in visit from Lviv to Oslo
In partnership with the Human Rights House Foundation, the Nobel Peace Center, Fritt Ord Foundation, and the National Theatre, MHHRI has worked to bring the Lesya Ukrainka theatre from Lviv to Oslo on September 30, 2023. The play premiered on 22 June 2022, and has since been performed in Ukraine as well as France, Romania, Poland and Germany. Lesya Ukrainka Lviv Drama Academy Theater is represented by a group of young, ambitious and courageous stage artists. There are still tickets available.

Cooperation with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
Between February and June 2023 we continued our collaboration with the NRC, organizing a series of four webinars. These webinars saw participation from 45 to 50 of their workers and volunteers.

The lectures were led by Helen Christie, Elisabeth Ng Langdal, and Nora Sveaass. Our topics addressed self-care as a helper in the light of encountering trauma and strong emotions, supporting survivors of gross human rights violations, and how to help traumatized children.

Cooperation with AHALAR

The engagement with Chernihiv organisation AHALAR continues. We have been following up with biweekly calls, supporting local webinars and dispensing psychological aid to various helpers in Ukraine.

Cooperation with the Regional Resource Center on Violence, Traumatic stress, and Suicide prevention (RVTS Nord) 

Drawing from our previous experience working with Ukrainian organizations, and with our manual on how to meet survivors of gender-based violence translated to Ukrainian, we were asked by RVTS Nord if they could use some of our material for their resource page. MHHRI are glad to share our resources and hope that they are useful for helpers working with refugees from Ukraine.

Helping the helpers icon

Helping the Helpers project
Experienced psychologists will be facilitating online support groups for Ukrainian employees and volunteers of the Norwegian Refugee Council, who work in refugee reception centers. The aim of this initiative is to address both the personal impact of their work and the practical challenges they encounter on the field.

  • Each psychologist leads small online groups, with a maximum of 5-6 participants in each, for 2 hours per session.
  • The initial contract spans 4 sessions, conducted weekly or more frequently if needed. In case of further interest, the project’s continuation can be extended upon mutual agreement.
  • The schedule is flexible, tailored to participants’ availability.
  • Three groups of support and reflection have been launched so far.

MHHRI teamwork
Following our engagement with the manual ”Children exposed to sexual violence” and conducting an online training of trainers for Ukrainian helpers, it became evident that there was a need to translate the manual from English into Ukrainian.

We hope this will support helpers working with children exposed to sexual violence, although the manual can also be used for helpers working with children exposed to any trauma.

We would like to use this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to those who have donated to this work. MHHRI will continue our important work with organizations and helpers. If you would like to support our work in and around Ukraine, we refer you to our bank account: 1503.05.72502 – Please mark the donation Mental health support in Ukraine. Thank you very much.

All manuals can be downloaded from the MHHRI website

There are three different manuals, which respectively address working with women, with boys and men, and with children who have experienced sexual violence.

The manuals are translated into several languages. The page numbers in each manual remain the same across languages. This allows survivors and helpers to work from copies in their preferred language and read the same content on the same pages. It also makes it easier to teach participants when participants and trainers work in more than one language. The manuals include a toolbox. Survivors can use it individually to regulate their own emotions through grounding exercises or in collaboration with a helper. Helpers can also use grounding exercises to take care of themselves as helpers.

Upcoming Events

The International Association for Suicide Prevention 
Is delighted to be hosting the 32nd IASP World Congress
Piran, Slovenia from 19th – 23rd September 2023

Join the International Council of Psychologists for two days of discussion, networking, sharing and learning
The focus of the 2023 Conference is Human Rights, Dignity and Justice – Empowerment for All. Submission for abstract proposals is open.
Virtual conference, December 1st 2023 & December 2nd 2023

23rd Nordic Conference for Professionals working with Traumatised Refugees
The theme for the 23rd Nordic Conference is Rehabilitating Torture Survivors and Traumatised Refugees. Registration for the conference is now open, as well as the abstract submission.
Göteborg, Sweden, on the 7th and 8th of December 2023

ECTMIH2023 Programme
The overarching theme of the congress is planetary health, focusing on the health of ‘human civilisations and the national systems on which they depend’ and reflecting the interconnectedness of human health and climate change in a rapidly changing environment.
Netherlands, Utrecht, from 20th – 23rd November 2023

We appreciate feedback and comments 

Welcome to our new subscribers, we hope you will find our content useful. The Mental Health and Human Rights Info Newsletter is a newsletter with the aim to provide insight on a certain subject across the scope of our work; human rights violations in war and conflict areas and mental health. Our intention is to deliver a newsletter as a short “lecture” where you can find relevant information regarding a specific subject from a mental health perspective. You will receive our newsletter 5 times a year.

We would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions on other issues you would like to see in this newsletter or if you are planning an event on related issues, please let us know so we can include your event in our newsletter.

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On our MHHRI Facebook page, and on Instagram we are continuously posting new and relevant articles that we add to our website, as well as events and videos. We also just launched our new LinkedIn page!

We are longing for peace in Ukraine with justice and human rights for all.

Sincerely yours,
Take care – and wishing you all the best.

Sincerely yours,

Mental Health and Human Rights Info

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