Healing Ukraine’s Nationwide Trauma
In 2022, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) committed to deploying their time-tested, evidence-based model for trauma healing and resilience to address the impacts of the war in Ukraine. The large-scale displacement and violence that has occurred because of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has created an acute need for mental health support among a population suffering from widespread trauma. To address this need, CMBM and their partners are committing to train an initial group of more than 1,000 Ukrainian community leaders in CMBM’s comprehensive program of self-care, group support, and community building, which utilizes practical mind-body skills to restore peoples’ physiological and psychological balance. In addition to benefiting the trainees themselves, trainees will go on to integrate these skills into their work serving those affected by the war with ongoing guidance and support from CMBM. Following these initial cohorts, the CMBM will seek to raise $10 million to fully train a total of 2,000 to 3,000 Ukrainians over the course of five years.
To address this situation, the Center for Mind-Body Medicine is committing to train an initial group of 1,070 Ukrainians in their time-tested, evidence-based model for trauma healing and resilience over the next two years. Trainees will integrate CMBM’s comprehensive program of self-care, group support, and community-building into the services they deliver to hundreds of thousands or millions in their clinics, classrooms, workplaces, churches, and military training programs, as well as a wide variety of community settings. Trainees, who are themselves traumatized, will learn to use practical, evidence-based skills—various forms of meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback, and self-expression in words, drawings, and movement—to restore their own physiological and psychological balance, and receive guidance as they integrate these tools into their work with all those whom they serve.
In June, the first 270 trainees participated in a 2-Day Emergency Seminar (2DES) pilot program, which combined large group instruction in the science of mind-body medicine and practical experience of its tools and techniques in supportive small groups. The 35 CMBM faculty who led these groups are now meeting monthly with these participants to provide ongoing support and guidance as all trainees begin to integrate mind-body skills into their lives and their work with war-traumatized Ukrainians. There are now almost 600 more people on the waiting list for 2DESs. This early effort is laying the foundation for the comprehensive program of population-wide healing that CMBM plans to implement in the months and years ahead.
In the next year, CMBM will train three additional cohorts of 200 each, totaling 600, through an initial 2DES and four months of follow-up consultation. In the following year, these 600 trainees will participate in an advanced 2DES and receive ongoing consultation, and CMBM will also provide initial and advanced 2DES and four months of monthly consultations to an additional cohort of 200 individuals.
Following these initial cohorts, the CMBM will seek to raise $10 million to fully train—over the course of five years— a total of 2,000 to 3,000 Ukrainians in CMBM’s time-tested, evidence-based model for population-wide trauma healing and resilience-building.
Y1: 2-Day Advanced Training of the 270 participants from CMBM’s initial 2-Day Emergency Seminar (2DES) .
Three additional cohorts of 200 each (totaling 600) will participate in the initial 2DES and receive 4 months of follow-up consultation.
Continued development of partnerships with organizations, agencies, and individuals in Ukraine, as well as with those serving Ukrainians who have taken refuge in Poland and elsewhere.
Y2: Advanced 2DES and ongoing consultation for all 600 who participated in the initial 2DES in Y1.
Initial and Advanced 2DES and four months of monthly mentorship and supervision (M&S) for an additional cohort of 200.
CMBM is also seeking funding for its comprehensive five-year-long Ukraine-wide program of trauma healing. This consists of eight days of training, and one year of weekly M&S of all those who participated in the 2DES, as well as the same comprehensive training and supervision for 2,000 additional Ukrainians. In addition, to ensure sustainability, CMBM will, together with its Ukrainian partners, select and train a leadership team of 300 of the most skillful and committed trainees.
The ongoing Russian Federation invasion of Ukraine has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 civilians and tens of thousands of Ukrainians (exact number unknown) who have died defending their homeland. Whole cities in the east of Ukraine, like Mariupol, have been reduced to rubble, and hundreds of young women and children have been raped and murdered in the east, as well as in Bucha and Irpin, suburbs of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
As of May 15, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had reported that 6.5 million Ukrainians had fled the country, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) had indicated that over 8 million were internally displaced. According to UNICEF, 60% of Ukraine’s children are no longer living in their homes.
The shocking brutality of the current Russian invasion has multiplied exponentially the damage and destruction that began with the 2014 annexation of Crimea; it has also triggered collective memory of Stalinist and Nazi mass murders and deportations. Virtually everyone in Ukraine feels the war with Russia is a life-or-death struggle, with the survival of the country and its democracy and culture, as well as individual lives, at stake. The Center for Mind-Body Medicine is partnering with Ukrainian psychiatrists and psychologists who believe that the entire country is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) .
This reality has created a critical need for a nationwide program of public mental health, an effort which will provide immediate relief from the physical and psychological symptoms of trauma and lay the foundation for an enduring program to address and prevent its ongoing consequences—anxiety and depression, heart disease, cancer, immune disorders, substance abuse, disrupted relationships, and workplace disorder—and to build resilience.
In 2022, CMBM founder and CEO, psychiatrist James S. Gordon, MD, traveled several times to Ukraine and Poland working closely with local partners to bring CMBM’s program of trauma healing directly to those who have lost family members and seen their homes and communities destroyed, and with children. CMBM faculty provided online workshops in trauma healing for Ukrainian children and adults, refugees, and those supporting them. We translated our materials into Ukrainian and Polish. In June 2022, CMBM presented two 2-day emergency seminars which provided participants with a basic grounding in the mind-body approach, and instruction which would enable them to teach practical, easy-to-learn healing skills to traumatized children and adults. The first seminar was produced in partnership with psychiatrist Dr. Roman Kechur and his team at the Catholic University of Ukraine, and the second in collaboration with Polish psychiatrist Dr. Ewa Dobiola, the leader of an international association for positive psychotherapy. 270 participated in the seminars, another 600 are on the waiting list.
In 2023, CMBM signed a contract with a large international humanitarian organization funded by USAID to design and implement a twelve-month training initiative for 150 Ukrainians, a program budgeted at approximately $1 million. The initiative launched in April 2023 and will involve trainees primarily from 8 oblasts.
While we expect this program to begin developing capacity for an effective population-wide mental health response in these regions, and to also lay a strong foundation for a larger country-wide healing program, this initiative is currently limited by both time and geographical restraints. CMBM seeks additional funds to expand the training model to a wider audience, including wounded veterans and their families, prisoners of war, victims of gender-based violence, those who are documenting war crimes and human rights violations, and internally displaced children and their families.
CMBM is actively and urgently seeking financial support from church organizations (initially, The Church of the Resurrection, a Methodist group) , USAID, foundations, and individual philanthropists, including those in the tech sector who have made a commitment to Ukraine.
CMBM is initially seeking $1.4 million for its Commitment to provide advanced emergency training to the first cohort of 270 and offer initial and advanced two-day emergency seminars for four cohorts of 200 each, while it makes every effort to secure the additional $8.2 million for the nationwide program of trauma healing which it will develop over five years.
CMBM, which has already begun to attract press attention (please see photo assets and an article by Dr. Gordon in USA Today: “War in Ukraine: Children bear emotional scars of a horrific conflict,”) will pursue major media coverage to spread awareness of its work and attract potential donors, partners, and participants to trainings
Over the next five years, CMBM will bring its model and use the funds it raises to support and enhance services and programs that are already in place in the community, and the individuals who are key players in these organizations. Partnerships are being formed with prominent organizations of Ukrainian psychiatrists and psychologists, with the military and clergy (and with the clergy who serve the military) , with municipal governments (initially Kyiv) , with school systems, and local and international NGOs. CMBM will continually reach out to additional Ukrainian health, education, and social service sectors. In every case, ongoing mentorship and supervision will be implemented in concert with CMBM’s partnership organizations. This will ensure that the CMBM model is being integrated in a way which fully respects and enhances the perspective and functioning of these partner organizations.