Ukrainian professor Olga Osokina has seen the consequences of the Russian full-scale invasion with her own eyes. As a visiting professor, she helps the University of Turku to build understanding of the mental health of children and adolescents in war-torn Ukraine.
Olga Osokina works as a professor at the Donetsk National Medical University and Kyiv Medical University. Her primary research topic is the mental health of Ukrainian adults, adolescents and children. Besides doing research, she also continues diagnostic and consultative work with patients, as well as psychotherapy.
Osokina visits the University of Turku regularly and she is a member of a research team, led by Professor Andre Sourander of the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry. The team, which is a part of the INVEST Flagship, researches the impact the Russian invasion has had on the mental health of the Ukrainian adolescents.
War-afflicted Youth has an Increased Risk of PTSD, Depression and Anxiety
Professor Osokina has researched the mental health-related outcomes of the war in Ukraine since the Russian military aggression in Donbas. In 2016–2017, she, as a part of a research group lead by Professor Sourander, investigated the risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety, depression and suicidality among adolescents after the beginning of the Russian invasion in Ukraine in 2014. The group compared adolescents in a war-aﬀected southeast territory and a non-war central region of Ukraine.
According to the study, adolescents in the war-torn region reported high levels of war trauma and an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. They also had an increased level of suicidality.
– Children and adolescents are the most vulnerable category of the population under the influence of extremely strong traumatic factors. They need protection, medical and psychological assistance and psychosocial support, says Osokina.
Identifying Risk Factors may Help with Developing New Interventions
Professor Osokina’s most recent collaboration with the University of Turku was built on the basis of the 2016–2017 study. Currently, the aims of the research team are to assess the prevalence of PTSD, depression, anxiety and suicidality among war-traumatized Ukrainian adolescents, and to compare this data with the data from the previous study. They also plan to examine the potential risk factors associated with PTSD and study adolescent resilience and its impact on mental health problems.
– The findings may be useful for the treatment of PTSD and the development of new interventions to increase the resilience of adolescents to the effects of war-related stress, says Osokina.
The need for these types of interventions is enormous, since the negative outcomes of the Russian invasion have been severe for Ukrainian children and adolescents.
– Millions of children have faced maladaptive and traumatic experiences such as becoming a refugee and difficulty adapting, loss of housing and former social ties, loss of parents and other close people, violence, intimidation, physical injury or crippling, witnessing deaths, prolonged stay in basements without life-saving things, and much more, says Osokina.
Let’s Cope Together Website Offers Tools to Support Children in a Crisis Situation
Professor Osokina has also worked on the Let’s Cope Together website. The website provides parents free information and methods for handling their children’s anxiety and other worries.
The website was launched originally in the University of Turku at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the website has expanded to cover also the Ukrainian war.
Professor Osokina considers the website useful for Ukrainian parents.
– The Let’s Cope Together website is a very relevant and timely guide for parents who are with their children in extreme stressful situations, such as the war in Ukraine, says Osokina.
No Ukrainian Family has been Left Untouched by the War
Olga Osokina continues her work in Ukraine mostly remotely from Poland, where she moved with her son and her parents after the war started in 2022. She says that no Ukrainian family has remained unaffected by the Russian invasion.
–This unprovoked, unjust full-scale war has affected every Ukrainian family to varying degrees. Each family has its own individual story. There are stories that suddenly ended with the lives of Ukrainians, and we will never know about them. There are stories of grief, loss, rescue, and incredible heroic deeds. However, every Ukrainian citizen remembers their first day of the war, says Osokina.
The Inequalities, Interventions, and New Welfare State (INVEST) is an Academy of Finland Flagship and a Joint Research Centre of the University of Turku and Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare. It aims at increasing wellbeing of Finnish society during childhood, youth and early adulthood and preventing psychosocial risks compromising such development through innovative interventions. INVEST aims at providing a new model for the welfare states that is more equal, better targeted to problem groups, more anticipatory as well as economically and socially sustainable.
Photo for the media: https://apps.utu.fi/media/tiedotteet/Olga_Osokina.png
Professor Olga Osokina studies, with the researchers of the Research Centre for Child Psychiatry in the University of Turku, the effects the war has on the mental health of the Ukranian adolescents. Photo: University of Turku / Heikki Kettunen