Since the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine last March, thousands of people have been killed in the ensuing conflict and close
to a million have been displaced or have fled to neighboring
Psychologists in Ukraine find themselves practicing and
teaching in the midst of armed conflict accompanied by mass
traumatization of civilians, where some mental health facilities
have been completely destroyed, and no one has money to pay
for their services.
To help mental health professionals rebuild the psychological
health and stability of their communities, Elena Cherepanov,
PhD, an expert in global mental health and community trauma,
has conducted psychological first aid training via Skype for
mental health professionals and students in Ukraine.
The training centers on her Community-Based
Psychological Recovery method, which promotes community
recovery and the prevention of violence and further trauma.
“Preventing post-trauma violence is far more effective on the
community level when the whole traumatized community
comes together and takes the responsibility for psychological
recovery,” she says.
Cherepanov believes that people can cope with almost any
event if they have strong personal and community support. To
that end, her trainings teach mental health providers to identify
sources of resilience and strength in their communities, such as
historical experience of survivorship, culture, traditions, intact
infrastructure and community self-reliance. She also teaches
them how to mobilize community support systems through town
forums and how to identify and work with community leaders.
Born in Russia, Cherepanov’s passion for trauma work
began in 1988 when, as professor of psychology at the Moscow
State Pedagogical University, she worked with survivors of
the Spitak earthquake, which devastated rural communities
in Armenia. Based on those experiences, she launched the
Association for Specialists in Traumatic Stress and published
the first book in the Soviet Union on post-traumatic stress — a
text that is still used there today. Cherepanov’s model has been
A psychologist is using Skype to train
mental health providers in war-torn Ukraine.
By Kathleen Smith