Ukraine can’t afford soldiers to “fall apart” on the battlefield, hopes winter will help
The Ukrainian government has rolled out a NATO-backed mental health program, aiming to make its soldiers more effective in battle and less prone to post-traumatic stress afterwards, the US outlet Daily Beast reported on Friday.
“Following Russia’s invasion and at the request of Ukraine, NATO has put in place assistance to enhance the psychological resilience of military service personnel and develop a mental health system for Ukrainian combatants and veterans,” bloc spokesperson Oana Lungescu told the Beast.
The program is supposed to counter the “fear, agitation, and meltdowns” troubling the Ukrainian soldiers, so they can keep fighting. Ukraine “can’t afford to have soldiers falling apart on the battlefield,” the outlet noted.
“People have had no understanding of the mental state they could get into during combat,” military psychologist Rodion Grigoryan, who runs the program, told the Beast in an exclusive interview. His program is training soldiers to spot signs of combat stress in their colleagues and intervene in mental health crises.
The UK military has a similar program, called Trauma Risk Management (TRiM). Neil Greenberg, a professor at King’s College London who helped implement it in the UK and also trained Ukrainian fighters, told the Beast that unaddressed mental health problems can “degrade your capacity to keep on fighting.”
From what Greenberg has heard from the battlefield, “things are horrible out there.”
Artillery and drones and unpredictable, non-defensible attacks are much more psychologically difficult, because you could be the best soldier in the world, but if an artillery shell lands somewhere near you, there’s nothing you can do about that.
Psychological trauma is a major preoccupation in Western armies, whose expeditionary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have caused four times as many casualties from suicide than from combat, according to a 2021 Brown University study.
The biggest challenge Greenberg sees for Ukrainian troops is that they are “not flying into a war zone during the battle and then coming home to normality,” as rear areas are affected by the conflict as well.
Ukraine’s defense ministry hopes to rotate forces on the front lines as the fighting slows down with the onset of winter weather, according to the Beast. Aditi Nerurkar, identified only as “a doctor with expertise in stress and resilience,” told the outlet that this will be sorely needed, in order to release some of the pressure of constant warfare.
“It’s been ten months. There is no respite. We need that respite,” Nerurkar said.
December 24, 2022 at 02:45AM