Sinn Féin spokesperson on Mental Health Mark Ward TD has called on the government to plan for the psychological needs of Ukrainian people.
Teachta Ward said that the government must plan for the traumatic effects of war and displacement of Ukrainian people in a culturally appropriate manner.
Speaking before the debate on the government’s response to the situation in Ukraine, Teachta Ward said:
“Until very recently, Ukrainians lived a normal life. But that changed abruptly when Russia invaded.
“Ukrainians are also experiencing agonising feelings of injustice and unfairness as their hard-earned democracy and freedom have been ripped away.
“The people that are arriving on our shores have had their whole lives turned upside down.
“People have had to leave behind their homes, their jobs, their schools, their friends and basically everything that they know.
“Most heart-breaking of all is the separation of families. Fathers and brothers who remained in Ukraine to fight against the Russian invasion on their home, elderly relations who may not have wanted or who were unable to make the uncertain journey.
“This wartime situation is a particularly traumatic experience for anyone to endure.
“There is abundant research that such difficult experiences can lead to severe consequences, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“PTSD symptoms include terrifying and realistic flashbacks of war scenes, intrusive memories of the trauma, panic, inability to sleep and nightmares, as well as avoidance of anything that resembles the trauma. Children are specifically vulnerable.
“Imagine the terror that a child faces in a dark basement, watching the faces of their parents praying that the next missile will not hit their building.
“Parents can shield their children against trauma to some extent, but they can only do so much.
“When people arrive in this state, we can very quickly identify physical health needs but identifying the psychological needs is not so straightforward.
“Trauma does not always manifest itself immediately but can come to the fore months and even years after the traumatic events that the people have had to endure.
“It is incumbent on the government to plan for the traumatic effects of war and displacement .
“The government must plan to provide mental health services in a culturally appropriate manner and to consider language and other factors.
“We do not know how long these people are going to be here and, looking at the structural damage to their homeland, many may not get the opportunity to go home.
“We must therefore do everything humanly possible to help integrate these people into Irish society.”