Children confront some of the harshest psychological effects of war, experts say
New Center at St. Nicholas Hospital in Lviv already supporting children and teens
Commitment by JaxFund announced at the 2023 Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York
As the war in Ukraine continues to take a massive toll on the country, a new state-of-the-art Children’s Mental Health Center at St. Nicholas Hospital in Lviv aims to address the psychological trauma children and teens are experiencing.
Last month JaxFund, formerly known as the Arizae Foundation, celebrated the opening of the Center, which was announced as part of a Commitment to Action launched at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) 2023 Meeting in New York in September. CGI Commitments to Action are new, specific, and measurable projects and programs to advance solutions on pressing global challenges.
Creation of the Center, which provides free treatment for war-related psychological trauma to Ukrainian children and teens, was made possible by JaxFund, in partnership with nonprofit organization Stronger Than Ever, U.S.-based companies Red Ventures and JustAnswer, and Lviv IT Cluster.
The World Health Organization has identified the mental health of children and adolescents as a “critical issue,” specifically citing exposure to violence as one threat to mental health that can lead to long-lasting effects into adulthood. Save the Children has pointed to the effects of conflicts worldwide on the development of young people, saying that the trauma of war on children and adolescents can cause “lifelong implications on their physical and psychological wellbeing.”
In Ukraine, war-related trauma has left an indelible mark on the nation’s youth, necessitating a dedicated space for healing and support. The opening of this Center marks a milestone in the effort to prioritize mental health in conflict zones.
“As we near the two-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, and the world is faced with new acts of international terrorism and atrocities in the Middle East, it would be easy to get distracted and lose focus, but that would be a terrible mistake,” said Andy Kurtzig, Co-Founder of JaxFund and JustAnswer, which has continued to employ hundreds of people in Ukraine through the war. “Now is the time to increase support in every way possible – especially to the innocent children who have witnessed horrors that no one should ever see, and still live in constant fear and uncertainty. We cannot stand by and watch as a generation of young Ukrainians suffers from the effects of violence and fear.”
“The number of children in need of help is increasing every day because the psychological consequences of war are distant in time. Children experience anxiety disorders, PTSD, depression, dissociative disorders, behavioral disorders, and are more prone to alcohol and drug abuse,” said Ivan Myskiv, the director of the St. Nicholas Hospital. “That’s why creating this Center is so important. More than two years into this Russian invasion, we realize that it’s not just surgical interventions or physical treatment needed, but psychological assistance for the youth of Ukraine as well.”
The Center’s approach is holistic, incorporating evidence-based therapies, counseling, and support services. It aims not only to address immediate psychological needs but also to foster resilience and equip young individuals with coping mechanisms for the future. With a team of dedicated professionals, including psychologists, counselors, and child psychiatrists, the Center is poised to fill this critical need for young people in Ukraine.
Josh Balser, Director of Humanitarian Response at CGI, emphasized the importance of initiatives like the Children’s Mental Health Center in conflict zones: “War has an effect on every aspect of a community, not only the physical infrastructure. Mental health, especially for children, can often be a secondary concern, after basic life-saving needs. The commitment made by JaxFund and St. Nicholas Hospital is a shining example of how partnerships and targeted interventions can be future-focused and make a real difference in the lives of those affected by conflict.”
Recognizing the profound impact of war on the mental well-being of young people, the organizers have expressed hope that the Children’s Mental Health Center in Lviv can serve as a model for addressing these mental health needs during ongoing conflict and recovery.
(Generative AI was used in the drafting of this article. Foundation staff supplied, reviewed and edited the content for accuracy and bias.)