During the war, Valeriia and her colleagues launched a psychological support hotline for Ukrainians at home and abroad. In addition to Ukraine, the line is already available in 21 countries, in particular in Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
“We see our mission as helping Ukrainians in Ukraine and abroad to build up inner strength and cope more easily with the burden of a war of such unprecedented scale as happened to us all for the first time. It is challenging indeed, but we manage,” Valeriia says.
In December 2023, psychologists launched a website from which audio and video appeals are now available over the internet. This makes the hotline accessible from anywhere in the world, and in particular from the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The global expansion of the initiative was made possible thanks to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine and generous financial support from international partners, including the European Union, Denmark and Canada. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Deloitte became technical partners of the initiative.
Through the hotline, Ukrainians can receive free professional psychological help, consult with psychiatrists, or join online psychological support groups. Currently, the team comprises 15 professional psychologists and 2 psychiatrists who are continually engaged in learning and supervision.
“I've been fortunate to get some really incredible people involved in this initiative. Believe me, they are all extraordinary: very qualified, growth-oriented and motivated to help,” Valeriia shares her admiration for the team.
“People who work in our team, just like all Ukrainians, have their own stories in this war: the mother of a soldier now at the frontline; courageous teachers at Ukraine’s universities; incredible women who are raising young children during the war; people who survived the occupation; those who lost property they were able to buy thanks to many years of work; and also, those going through separation from their beloved homes.”
“The experience that each of us has allows us to work better and to feel human pain more deeply,” Valeriia says.
Line specialists often receive calls from people who are desperate, anxious or lonely. They also often seek support to cope with stress, grieving loss or depression. In the almost two years of the hotline’s operation, its experts have helped more than 9,000 Ukrainian men and women.
“We hear so many stories: told to us by lonely older women who, for the first time in their lives, are learning how to cope with severe anxiety and panic attacks due to shelling; women who are juggling raising children, work, and awaiting their husbands’ return from the frontline; and mothers who have not lost hope that their children will return from the war,” says Valeriia.
“War hurts everyone differently, but no one remains untouched. People may call to ease their anxiety after another shelling, and others may be looking for support abroad, because they have started their lives from scratch in foreign countries or, on the contrary, are waiting for the right time to return home.”
According to Valeriia, at work you have to deal with difficult situations, but they inspire you to continue working.
“Once a client contacted our line, who in the morning before the call had been one step away from taking his own life. After consulting with our specialists, he confidently said that he was ready to continue living and now he had completely different plans for the evening,” says Valeriia. “I will never forget this call.”
Valeriia shared that during last year’s attacks by the Russian Federation on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, it was really difficult to work and help people.
“Some of our specialists are in Ukraine, and others are in Germany, France, Turkey and Japan. Last winter, while energy workers were reviving cities and villages after the attacks, our psychologists, who are currently working outside Ukraine, continued working and helping people.”
“Thanks to this convenient platform, which allows people to work from safe places and not be ‘tied’ to the office, as well as the friendship and mutual support of our team, we can work without setbacks. Our hotline did not stop working for a minute.”
To the question of how to become more resilient and not lose hope, Valeriia confidently answers: “Don't be afraid to ask for help and continue living. During this period, for example, I gave birth to my daughter, little Nadiia (ed. — the name Nadiia means ‘hope’ in Ukrainian). This is my small but yet great hope for our victory and the mental recovery of our people. The team and I are doing everything we can to achieve this.”
For anyone experiencing severe stress and anxiety, know that help is available. For free psychological support and assistance, you can call the hotline in Ukraine on 0 800 100 102.