12 Nov 2022 | UKRAINE
During times of war and the immediate aftermath, concern mostly rests on the physical rebuilding of the country. Often times, this results in the neglect of those who make the country a nation: its people. The impact of the war on the mental health of Ukrainians who have been internally displaced, forced to flee the country, suffered the loss of loved ones and witnessed death and destruction on a large scale, is immeasurable. It is estimated that approximately 10 million Ukrainians are at severe risk of stress, anxiety, depression and PTSD.
In conjunction with the provision of food and hygiene packs to hundreds of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Poland, the Amir Khan Foundation will be launching a Refugee Mental Health project. Founder Amir Khan recognises the power of sport to help improve mental health. It has been proven that physical activity releases endorphins to relax muscles and relieve tension in the brain, therefore reducing the symptoms of conditions such as stress and anxiety.
In addition to this, Khan does not underestimate the importance of team sports which promote community cohesion and fosters healthier relationships between players. During his visit to Poland in April, he engaged in the building of a new outdoor fitness facility for Ukrainian refugees sponsored by the Amir Khan Foundation. Khan commented, “Team sports nurture social cooperation and a culture of belonging to a collective, especially in stressful environments such as refugee homes, where loneliness and isolation can easily take hold, it is essential we do what we can to prevent the development of even more trauma”.
American therapist, Alysha Tagert, suggests that young people suffering from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress can benefit from the creation of a ‘coping tool box’. The box would include everyday items with a specific sensory role. Items included in the tool box would range a stress ball or fidget spinner to keep the hands occupied, a stuffed animal or weighted pillow to support the body’s self-awareness, or even chewing gum for oral motor sensory support. Each of these items provides a different sensory purpose, and most of us will already have the majority of these items at home.
The toolbox is a self-help soothing resource. Tagert suggests the children assemble the tool boxes themselves to encourage a sense of comfort and control. By personally choosing the items included, it gives them autonomy and agency over not only their healing, but more importantly their journey. The Amir Khan Foundation will be working on the development of these toolboxes to further aid the physical and mental wellbeing of those in need.