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UKRAINE: psychological support for refugees

  • Solidarity Ukraine

Air Liquide Foundation together with PRO-FIL Foundation from Rzeszow supports refugees' mental health in the framework of the "Integration" project. Interview with Marcin Mołoń, President of the PRO-FIL Foundation.

Please tell us a few words about the Pro-fil Foundation.

Foundation for Social Psychoprophylaxis PROFiL is based in Rzeszów and is made up of passionate people - specialists in psychology, pedagogy, psychotherapists and psychoprophylactics. We work with social workers, teachers and many institutions in the south-eastern Poland, but also abroad. During the 6 years of the Foundation's operation we have carried out nearly 50 projects, whose recipients are approx. 15 thousand people.

The scope of the Foundation's activities is very broad and concerns social activation of various social groups. We help people of all ages - from children and youth to seniors - in developing their potential and support them in overcoming various difficulties. Our activities include support in the field of social assistance, counteracting addictions and social exclusion. We are also involved in protecting public health, supporting the development of science, education and upbringing. We try to adapt our activities to current events and respond to the current needs of our beneficiaries.

What is the project co-created with the Air Liquide Foundation about?

"Project - Integration" is a response to the effects of war in Ukraine: loneliness, anxiety and depression, trauma, financial, legal, educational problems, etc. Ukrainian citizens coming to Poland need various forms of support, including psychological. With the help of Air Liquide Foundation we meet these needs. In the period from May to the end of September, we offer support to Ukrainian children and teenagers attending sociotherapeutic day centers in Debica, through individual and group forms of assistance. We also provide individual psychological consultations for women. For the purposes of this project we started cooperation with Ukrainian specialists who know the language and have relevant experience.

How do you think the psychological support for Ukrainian refugees should look like?

People coming to Poland from Ukraine are often still in the phase of shock. They struggle with helplessness and depression - there is also a lot of anger, resentment and frustration about what is happening in their country. Refugees experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety disorders and other mental health issues. For this reason, immediate help is needed from qualified professionals who know best how to cope with the trauma.

Many facilities provide support in the form of specialized psychological services, legal counseling, translation and material support. All these organizations have one thing in common - empathy and willingness to help. I think this is what matters most.

However, it is important to realize that those helping also face exhaustion, helplessness and many difficult emotions. This awareness is important and allows us to take care of the helpers as well. Our 'Project Integration' also focuses on these people.

How do you think the situation with refugees from Ukraine in Poland will develop?

We estimate that the wave of refugees who will need help from psychiatrists and psychologists because of post-traumatic stress disorders is still ahead of us. The most common symptoms of these disorders are nightmares, feelings of helplessness, recurrent memories of the trauma, or excessive sensitivity to stimuli. Some refugees will develop depression, anxiety disorders, and sometimes psychosis. These states are triggered not only by traumatic events, longing and separation from loved ones, but also loss of self-esteem. Professionals can therefore expect a great deal of work related to long-term psychological care.