Weakened by the pandemic and the climate crisis, mental health is once again being tested by the war in Ukraine. While the WHO notes a 25% increase in anxiety and depression worldwide, how can we continue to learn about the Ukrainian crisis while preserving our mental health? Answers with Ariane Calvo, psychologist and author of the book “Small Guide to Psychological Survival in Times of Health Crisis” published by First.
After two years of a difficult health context, what could be the impact on mental health as a result of the war in Europe?
People under the age of 25 have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Today we are not done with the consequences of the pandemic, especially young people. For them, the stakes of the ecological crisis are very present. Even before the war in Ukraine they lived with the pain of living on a damaged planet, in a context of inexorable global warming and suffering from the shortage of water and food.
With the war in Ukraine, there is an accumulation of the three topics at the same time. We reach a level of deep discouragement, a kind of infinite distress, for which they see no solution except to lower their heads and “a shitty life”until the end of their days.
We are no longer talking about the resilience that was put forth during the pandemic…
Some ask their parents how they had the consciousness to put them on Earth. It is painful for young patients because they have been treated as unconscious during the pandemic, do not want to wear a mask and want to continue to see their friends. But I think it was a form of resilience, to find the source and stay alive. Otherwise, the photo is so black that they have a hard time finding one.
Do social networks play a role in the psychological impact of the war in Ukraine on 25-year-olds?
What I see on my social networks and those of my children is relatively positive. There are calls for mobilization, calls for resistance, but also funny things. For example, I saw a publication “Fight Putin, buy a bike”, with the aim of not being dependent on petrol anymore.
These publications are rich in solidarity, but also ridicule. For those under 25, it is necessary to pretend that Ukraine is part of the European Union, while for older generations it can refer to the USSR. Young people are concerned. There is something interesting that gives hope.
Citizens’ suffering is continuously passed on on social networks, how does this affect mental health?
The subject is not so much social networks as information. The research work and the search for information are so corrupted that there is a tendency to share emotional and impactful stories on a large scale.
A lot of information that comes to us is hurtful, without giving more elements about the contextualization. We do not know the why, the how and the framework within which this fits. We are in the emotion, in the individual. The spectator is confronted with brutal effort, which causes emotional suffering for oversensitive personalities. Because confronted with the power of emotion is added the power of the image. In our time, we may ask the question of how we give and receive information.
Faced with the situation in Ukraine, some feel illegal to feel bad about this situation?
Both are normal feelings. We are probably all hypersensitive. Because sensitivity is part of human nature, even if this facet has been obliterated by previous, more rigorous training. Today, education is more benevolent and people express their emotions more willingly.
I have cases of people who are afraid of Ukraine. They have trouble concentrating or sleeping. I think it has to do with a very strong form of empathy that defines human nature.
So yes, it is legitimate to feel empathy and to feel that it affects us directly. It’s also normal to feel illegitimate because you’re in a fight that you don’t experience directly. We must live in our place, show solidarity, be empathetic, but we cannot claim that we suffer as much as those who fall under the bombs.
How do you stay informed and take care of your mental health?
The ideal is to get information when you feel most available and can cash in on it. Once up to date, it is necessary to radically ban the information running in a loop. Because taking care of yourself isn’t just eating or exercising, it’s paying attention to what we let in. We must therefore pay attention to what is in our ears, in our head and what comes out of our mouth. If we are psychologically affected, it can lead to a chain reaction on other aspects of life, stress, sleep, concentration… The question of information is essential. The more we teach our children to learn, the more we will teach them to protect themselves and grow better.
What can we do to feel better during this period?
We feel involved in what is happening, so we have to win by getting involved. Help an association, demonstrate, be part of a solidarity movement and don’t pretend it happens far away without affecting us. We saw it with the Covid, with the means of communication, everything concerns us. We must win by feeling less powerless and collectively moving.
(ETX Daily Up)