Mental health in times of war

  • Université / Administration centrale et Rectorat
    24 février 2023
  • Category

As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many scholars and scientists have left the country. More than 30 Ukrainian researchers displaced by the war have temporarily joined the University of Luxembourg mainly as research fellows and in some cases under temporary contracts funded by the FNR. In this series of interviews, we briefly present the researchers and their work.

Viktoriia Gorbunova is a Professor of Social and Applied Psychology Department at Zhytomyr Ivan Franko State University. Currently, she is a Visiting Researcher at the Department of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences of the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences at the University of Luxembourg.

What is your research field and which specific topic are you working on?

My main research interests are Public Mental Health, Transgenerational Trauma and its Consequences as well as Education in Psychology. I am currently working on the Mental Health for Ukraine project with support from GFA Consulting Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

What would you like to achieve in your research work here, in Luxembourg?

I continue working on developing Universal Mental Health Training (UMHT) for frontline professionals (police officers, emergency responders, social services workers, educators, pharmacists, priests, and other professionals who daily interact with many people). UMHT is an educational instrument to raise mental health awareness, reduce stigma toward people with mental disorders and grow particular skills for giving support (recognise a mental health condition, validate a condition with a person, provide support, refer for professional help, and ensure that professional help is received).

Why does it make sense for you to collaborate specifically with the University of Luxembourg?

The University of Luxembourg is a place that was created for research and exploration. Because of the war, I was not able to continue my work at home. In Ukraine, I live near a military airport which the Russian army is bombing repeatedly. The proposal to continue my work here and have support from highly experienced members of the DBCS department was kind of a blessing for me.

In terms of collaboration, it also gave me possibilities to open new aspects of my topic. Especially, in the area of investigation of links between (mental) health and behaviour, the influence of economic, social, and genetic factors on these behaviours, and interventions to improve health through modifying behaviour or personal relationships.

Will your research have a potential impact on people’s everyday life?

It already has. During the whole year 2021, UMHT was piloting in Ukraine. More than 300 front-line professionals were prepared to work and started working with people with mental health issues. Unfortunately, part of our work was destroyed by the Russian invasion (the Lugansk and Donezk regions were among the implementation places). The main outcomes of implementation are increasing awareness of the front-line professionals in mental health, decreasing stigma and growth of the capacities to provide support.

What do you think is the biggest contribution your work can bring to the University of Luxembourg or to Luxembourg in general?

The UMHT is relatively simple in terms of implementation and a useful instrument that can be modified according to the needs of different target audiences. For example, for teachers and other school staff who are now working with refugee children. It can have a sufficient input on their mental health but also improve academic performance and make teaching easier.

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