UNICEF helps 'How Are You?' campaign boost mental health in Ukraine
The latest phase of a campaign that aims to boost the mental health of children and parents in Ukraine has been launched by the All-Ukrainian Health Program, initiated by First Lady Olena Zelenska in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Children face huge challenges during times of war, with the violence and upheaval causing their anxieties to multiply. Many cannot comprehend the situation and look to their parents for an explanation, observing their reactions to events and imitating their behavior.
Now, answers to some of the most common children’s questions, such as what fear is and why we sometimes cry, have been gathered collaboratively with UNICEF, as part of the latest phase of the ‘How Are You’ communication campaign.
The launch of the FAQs marks World Mental Health Day, celebrated on 10 October. This year, the theme was the question: "How Are You?"
"Every day should undoubtedly be a day for mental health,” said Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of Ukraine. “October the tenth is an opportunity to remind ourselves of this once again. There will never be a better time to look inside ourselves and ask, 'How are you?' To share what keeps us going when there seems to be nothing left. One person's story can be a lifeline for another, showing the way to growth through overcoming difficulties.”
According to a survey conducted by UNICEF through U-Report, 73 per cent of youth aged 14 to 34 say they require emotional or psychological support. However, only 30 per cent of them sought help. The research also shows that children and adolescents want to understand their emotions more and learn what to do in stressful situations.
"Children say they need support from peers and adults, but at the same time, they fear that adults might belittle or not understand their feelings,” says Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “Parents do not always know how to support themselves and their children, especially in conditions of stress caused by the war. We believe that the simple advice and practices people receive as part of the campaign will help parents lead by example, teaching children to better understand their emotions and cope with them."
Additionally, on World Mental Health Day, an exhibition preview took place in Kyiv titled ‘War Diaries: Unheard Voices of Ukrainian Children’, supported by UNICEF with the participation of the First Lady. The exhibition featured drawings and writings by Ukrainian adolescents about the horrors they have endured due to the war and how these have changed their lives – for example, the story of 17-year-old Sofia, who lost her father in Mariupol and spent three weeks under occupation. Young people also shared their stories of resilience. These included Polina, who had a stroke at the age of four and found that swimming helped, only to lose access to it in February 2022. Nevertheless, she has since found another activity that has given her the strength to keep going.
With the support of the Ministry of Education and Science, Ukrainian schools began 10 October with a lesson dedicated to mental health called ‘How Are You?’ In it, psychologists Svitlana Royz, Katerina Timakina and Iliya Yelisey Kastornikh taught students how to recognize and manage their emotions, as well as when and how to use self-help techniques.
On the same day, within the joint initiative of UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Science, and JuniorS, the nationwide flash mob #MoveforStrength was launched, developed by psychologist Svitlana Royz. The aim of the movement and the flash mob was to inform every child and adult about the importance of mental health and introduce them to a very simple exercise to take care of it. Last year, 5,224 children participated in a similar nationwide flash mob, a number recognized by the National Record of Ukraine as the largest number of children to have ever participated in a flash mob in Ukraine.
The latest phase of the ‘How Are You?’ campaign is implemented in collaboration with UNICEF in Ukraine and the Coordination Center for Mental Health under the Cabinet of Ministers.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org