Ukraine, military psychologist: “Soldiers in acute stress, see comrades bodies burned indelible shock”

“The diagnosis for most of the Ukrainian military engaged in war right now? Certainly that of acute stress‘. Soldiers who see how their comrades are burned or snatched from life in an instant by heavy weapons, or grenades that carbonise the bodies, receive an indelible impulse on their psyche. “This was stated in an interview with Adnkronos. , and the military psychologist Ukrainian Olena Nahorna, speaking from a secret place on the front line (“I can’t reveal where I am but it’s a military target,” she explains).

Olena, blue eyes and good, reassuring face, great calm, says: “What differentiates their pathology from other situations of stress, fear or anxiety, it is the high intensity of the situation they find themselves living in. Here the soldiers are daily in contact with explosions from heavy weapons, grenades, bombs that burn all around “. From the professional point of view,” it is not yet a question of post-traumatic syndrome, which can only be diagnosed after six months, while the war on a large scale has lasted less time -he observes- Even if there is an open discussion among psychologists about time and we are elaborating new protocols. Given the intensity of the war actions and the continuous missile attacks, and the atrocity of seeing all that evil with one’s own eyes, I would not be surprised if the protocols were changed and the diagnosis time was reduced from six to three months “.

The psychologist, who reiterates that “the war here began eight years ago”, rattles off some data: “According to our research, before February 24 they suffered from post traumatic stress syndrome 15 to 18% of the soldiers, but there were not so many casualties and such violent scenes caused by heavy weapons. Unfortunately, now we have no statistics, given the tight deadlines, but certainly the number has risen a lot. “The day flies away intense:” I have no timetables -says the soldier almost smiling- In the morning we receive orders, and I take care of improving resistance to stress and supporting soldiers during the execution of directives “.

There are many topics in talks with the soldiers, but the moral problem of killing does not exist. “The fear of having to kill, the relationship with weapons, is not a problem for our soldiers – explains the expert – Because ours is not an aggressive response, we do it for defense, consequently there is no problem moral to have to kill, because no one does it to attack, it is a question of defending one’s family and one’s country “. Rather, those that grip the soldiers are “existential questions, questions that arise precisely from the war. They wonder why, what is the point, what is the sense of dying like this. Lack of answers on why PTSD can worsen. “

One of the major problems of post-traumatic stress is “the inability to accept the new self – is Nahorna’s analysis – War changes people. And here, I work on the fact that we may discover our potential and survival skills. At this moment we are talking not only about having to face the consequences of the war on the military and family members, but also about the prospects for personal growth. “In addition to the military, there are many other categories that need support.” Those of civilian volunteers, those of ordinary citizens, and those of military family members “, says Olena. She explains:” In general, the situation is serious and complicated, because we can say that the entire population of Ukraine can identify itself in one of the categories and therefore the whole country he needs psychological support “.

The most difficult group “is that of family members of missing persons – says the psychologist – Recently, the data by the commissioner for missing persons has been released according to which 7,200 soldiers missing, part of which would be held in Russia. Western European psychology has never had to deal with so many missing people, and it is very difficult to work with these families. We use European protocols, but they only work partially. We can say one thing: Ukrainian psychologists are also at the front from the point of view of the new psychological frontiers, having to interface with situations that have never been experienced “.

(by Ilaria Floris)