Nadiia, a Luhansk private psychologist in her past life, now has a small office at the state-owned Youth Friendly Clinic in the centre of Zaporizhia, Eastern Ukraine. When her official working day is over, she can use this office for private consultations. With a laptop provided by IOM as a part of the assistance package, she also offers counselling sessions via Skype. Some of Nadiia’s clients are contacting her from her native Luhansk. “The signboard with my contacts is still there, it wasn’t damaged, so people keep calling,” Nadiia says. Her regular clients, who used to turn to Nadiia for assistance during the over 10 years that her centre in Luhansk was open, are also availing themselves of the Skype sessions. People displaced from the Donbas to Zaporizhia sometimes show up to Nadiia’s office.
“My clients are not talking about the conflict directly,” explains the psychologist. “They have complaints about sleep disorders, apathy, and lack of interest in life.”
Nadiia notes that two years after the conflict erupted and the people started fleeing, many are still in stress. However, she continues, even in peaceful times quite a few people in Ukraine were able to admit their need for psychological assistance and sought for professional help. In times of displacement and burdensome uncertainty, with basic needs such as housing, clothing, and jobs, in many cases not fully addressed, people hardly pay attention to their emotional condition.
What made things different about half a year ago is the effect of posttraumatic stress on children. “Problems with studying, stuttering and other troubles make parents worry, so they start looking for a psychologist to help their children. Of course, when such families come to my office, it often turns out that the parents also need psychological assistance,” says Nadiia.
Nadiia is one of over 3,000 IDPs supported by IOM with grants for self-employment or vocational training. As a psychologist, she sees the value of the livelihoods project not only in providing business training or equipment for self-employment, but also in helping build the self-confidence of participants and providing a platform for them to build networks with their peers. Nadiia sees a continued need for psychological counseling for the conflict-affected population, and her personal experience shows that if a specialist can build trust, even hesitant and vulnerable people will seek support.