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Project Ask the Doctor of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation to Provide Psychological Assistance to Donbass Residents Amid the Pandemic


The Rinat Akhmetov Foundation and Ukraine TV channel continue the series of live broadcasts Ask the Doctor. The guest of the next program’s broadcast was Kateryna Vepro, a certified Gestalt therapist and a family psychologist. The expert works with civilians from Donbass within the framework of the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation.

‘We provide psychological assistance to civilians living near the demarcation line and to internally displaced persons. We work online through group therapy sessions and individual sessions. When civilians from Donbass share their stories with the online Museum of Civilian Voices, they are offered psychological assistance, and many of them agree to take it up,’ said Kateryna Vepro.

The psychologist noted that the coronavirus lockdown, the risk of contracting the disease and the consequences of COVID-19 had a negative impact on the emotional state of people living in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

‘Civilians in the eastern regions have the war trauma, and now, during the pandemic, they are re-traumatized in the conditions of the coronavirus spread. They gradually learned how to live in the conditions in which they found themselves because of the hostilities, they began to somehow arrange their lives, and now again a large-scale trauma and change in their lives because of COVID-19. We seek to reduce the level of anxiety in people and provide them with some prompt help techniques to make it easier to cope with traumatic events: stress, insomnia, loss of appetite, increased blood pressure,’ said the psychologist.

The specialist shared one of the useful techniques for people who are in traumatic circumstances – this is a “safe place” technique.

‘For people to have internal resources and resistance capability, to be able to further organize their lives and the lives of their loved ones, we offer a certain recovery technique. We ask them to recall and imagine a pleasant place where they felt safe – like their own house or a house in a village where they spent their childhood with grandparents, a house by the sea or a house in the woods. Everyone has something of their own – that personal experience where there was a feeling of safety, of no threats. It is essential to return there in your thoughts and feel it, live it through, that “you are safe now”,’ Kateryna Vepro explained.

The expert noted that the pandemic is not a reason to postpone addressing psychological issues related to the past, and invited civilians from Donbass to get healed from traumas and pain for the sake of the future.

The Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation continues to collect stories from Donbass civilians to tell the world about their experiences during the armed conflict. It is important for the Foundation to document and preserve stories shared by witnesses so that this never happens again, for a better future, for the sake of peace.

For civilians in the eastern regions and throughout Ukraine, Civilian Voices is a safe space where people can, for the first time ever, openly share their personal tragedies, and thus free themselves from the burden of silence. Today, the first and largest archive of Civilian Stories in Ukraine has 2,000 stories. However, this is just the beginning. The Foundation’s goal is to collect 100,000 stories by 2025.

Gestalt therapist and family psychologist Kateryna Vepro is the 34th expert of the project Ask the Doctor. Earlier, the topics of the coronavirus and its consequences were discussed by such leading healthcare experts as Kateryna Amosova, a cardiologist, an associate member of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, and a member of the European Society of Cardiologists; by Yevhen Komarovskyi, a famous paediatrician of the country; Serhiy Komisarenko, a biochemical science expert; Oleksandr Zaika, an immunologist of the Public Health Centre of the Ministry of Health; by Oleh Chaban, a psychiatrist, a Doctor of Medical Sciences and a professor; by Serhiy Dubrov, the President of the Association of Anaesthesiologists of Ukraine, and others.

You can watch recordings of previous broadcasts on the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation’s Facebook page, as well as in YouTube. More than 11 million people have watched the project Ask the Doctor on the Foundation’s digital platforms.