Quarter of Ukrainians at risk of severe mental health conditions

Science and Health

A quarter of Ukraine’s population is at risk of developing a severe mental health condition as the country grapples with the year-long Russian invasion, a senior health official said on Thursday.

Michel Kazatchkine, a member of the Eastern and Central European and Central Asian Commission on Drug Policy, said the conflict in Ukraine had not only resulted in a shortage of medical supplies and personnel but had also caused a major threat to mental health.

The World Health Organization “estimates that at this time, one out of four people in Ukraine is at risk of severe mental health conditions,” Kazatchkine, who also serves as special adviser to the WHO’s Regional Office for Europe,said.

Mental Health in Ukraine

Describing a recent visit to the Ukrainian city of Dnipro, Kazatchkine said he had seen dozens of military personnel hospitalized with “acute and tragic anxiety, depression and psychiatric conditions”.

“Mental health is becoming a predominant public health issue in Ukraine,” he told reporters in Geneva. “The war and its consequences have led to an increased use of licit and illicit psychoactive substances.”

Civilians evacuated from Bilohorivka, Ukraine by the police step out of a van (credit: REUTERS)

Kazatchkine said the health crisis in Ukraine was expected to spread to other parts of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, partly as a result of an economic downturn in Russia, whose economy is closely linked to that of many other former Soviet republics.

“The economic downturn comes on a background of fragile health systems and very constrained health budgets,” he added.

Russian forces have been advancing in recent weeks, aided by freshly mobilized recruits.

Ukraine says it expects Russia to broaden that offensive with a big push as the February 24 anniversary of what Russia calls its “special military operation” approaches.