“With care for yourself and everyone”: how the ILO helps preserve and strengthen mental health of medical workers in Ukraine

In November 2022, the ILO Project, financed by the EU, launched in Ukraine an initiative to pilot the development and implementation of psychosocial support (PSS) at workplace programmes in war and post-war times. Twelve enterprises from the public sector, health care, education and information technology employing 9,654 staff joined the pilot.

By April 2023, these enterprises have gone through all the stages of PSS programme development and implementation: from situation analysis, drafting of a written policy and programme of activities to monitoring and evaluation of results.

The first policy and programme of activities were presented by the Central Primary Health Care Centre (Rivne city) employing 350 staff, women being most of them. The Centre provides services to about 108 thousand people. To help others effectively, the Centre decided to care for its personnel too.

The Central Primary Health Care Centre of Rivne City Council presented and approved its policy on psychosocial support at workplace and a programme of activities for its implementation.
Situation analysis showed that most staff had mild symptoms of depression and anxiety. At the same time, there were some workers with more marked signs that needed urgent help.

A special room was equipped at the Centre for psychological release, and regular delivery of psychosocial support activities began: both a training to prevent emotional burnout, and card games that help express one’s emotions.

Centre workers playing the Mafia
The greatest number of positive comments was received regarding a training on non-verbal communication to which a professional choreographer had been invited. The trainees were “walking” their inner child with pleasure and having some fun because they missed live communication very much. Besides, they themselves started proposing ideas for next activities: sessions on art therapy, aromatherapy, and the like.

Workers become closer and more welcoming to each other after each activity. The main point is that their stress level decreases, which is confirmed by interim evaluation results. For example, a month of sessions helped one female doctor, who had marked clinical signs of anxiety, reduce the parameters down to a normal level.

The psychosocial support activities caused great interest among workers. The number of participants increases every time. Positive outcomes and feedback collected through a questionnaire survey and a box for anonymous feedback and proposals inspire the initiative group very much.

I don’t know who benefits from our activity more: workers – because we care for them, or we – by receiving feedback. Our psycho-emotional state is quite classy from that", &mdash admits Inna Romanovska, an initiative group member, who has been the Centre’s full-time psychologist since January.

Importantly, the facility management supported the initiative from the very start. Oleh Shram, Centre Director, was actively involved in the preparatory phase, and currently also attends the sessions on equal terms with workers.

Continuous work is the most important point. You can’t do something from time to time once every three months. It is important to make notes every day, and hold meetings every week. Then, there will be attention to your team, you will be recognized and respected", — the Centre Director advises.

The problem of psychosocial risks is especially acute to the health sector workers, and to those of emergency and humanitarian services as well. Therefore, support of their mental health is quite relevant.

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