Why psychological support skills are important for the development of Ukraine’s labor potential: USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA’s) achievements and plans

08 May 2023

As a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Ukraine’s educational infrastructure has suffered significantly. As early as March 20, 2022, the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) reported that over 500 educational institutions had been destroyed or damaged afteralmost a month of thebrutal, large-scale war in Ukraine. After over a year of full-scale war, we have already seen 10.7% of Ukraine’s educational infrastructure damaged or destroyed. These are 3,233 educational institutions out of 30,289 educational institutions of various levels – from kindergarten to research institutions. According to the “Russia Will Pay” project by the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) Institute, the Centre for Economic Strategy, and Prozorro.Sale, the damage to the education sector is USD $8.9 billion, which is 6.2% of the total damage to infrastructure.

According to the U-Report Mental Health Survey conducted in February 2023, about 70 per cent of young people surveyed reported that their overall emotional state had worsened since Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, and more than 70 per cent needed more emotional or psychological support.

Traditionally, Ukraine has a poorly developed “culture of consumption of psychological support services”, and the experience of other countries shows that the need for such services will grow with each passing day of the war. Therefore, after the onset of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the USAID Economic Resilience Activity (ERA) began planning a series of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) activities to continue supporting the development of Ukraine’s labor potential.

First, ERA compiled a list of free psychological assistance providers and distributed it to students and teachers of Ukrainian educational institutions. Therefore, students and teachers now have up-to-date, verified information on where they can go if they need it, as the list is updated from time to time. You can find the list here: https://www.facebook.com/ERAUkraine/photos/5785894261520443

Next, ERA in cooperation with partners from the Ukraine Humanitarian Assistance Response Program (UHARP) and the Mental Help team from the UN Global Compact in Ukraine, held so-called “teaser” webinars on the basics of mental health and stress management in times of war for students and teachers.

Between December 2022 and April 2023, 338 students, 125 teachers from 33 universities, 41 vocational education institutions, 3 methodologists from 3 regional vocational education and training centers, and 13 practical psychologists and representatives of organizations working with young people took part in 10 one-day online trainings on psychological first aid (PFA). The geography of the training covered 20 regions of Ukraine, and the participants included not only internally displaced persons but also those who had moved abroad. The educational institutions also received a brief manual on PFA developed by an ERA consultant.

A logical continuation of the PFA trainings was the training for PFA trainers, where 51 students and teachers learned how to conduct such trainings on their own.

In addition, to strengthen the capacity to provide psychological support in a number of communities hosting displaced ERA’s partner educational institutions, an additional event was held – a training on the practical application of the Guidelines of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Situations in Ukraine. The training was attended by 21 representatives of NGOs providing psychosocial support, and educators from Kyiv, Lutsk, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, Ternopil and Uzhhorod. The acquired knowledge and skills will help them to better organize the process of providing assistance in emergencies. This includes to assess, develop, implement, monitor and evaluate assistance processes, work with referral(s), develop the capacity of governmental organizations and civil society to attract local resources, support self-help activities, and communicate effectively and cooperate with various groups that provide assistance to the population in emergencies.

Recently, more and more representatives of various Ukrainian companies have been joining PFA activities, as the need for such support, despite being “ignored” for a long time, is already beginning to be actively evident. Therefore, ERA is planning to conduct a separate series of online trainings on PFA for Ukrainian business representatives who often encounter clients and/or partners who have experienced crisis situations due to the war. The first such training will take place on May 29. To apply, please follow the link:  https://forms.office.com/r/1HE8B0u3p2

In the process of conducting PFA training, ERA also undertakes a survey of the participants to identify the needs and progress of the target group. So, below we share the current results of the survey:

  • 93% of surveyed students and 87% of teachers said that participation in the training had a positive impact on their willingness to seek help themselves or recommend others to seek help from a psychologist/psychotherapist, and students expressed a desire to continue studying mental health and the specifics of providing psychological support;
  • 74% of surveyed students and 91% of teachers reported that the knowledge and skills gained as a result of participating in PFA training had a positive impact on their studies and/or work, and teachers added that the knowledge and skills gained as a result of participating in the training also positively affected the improvement of the organization/implementation of the educational process and/or extracurricular activities in the educational institution and/or interaction with students;
  • 78% of surveyed students and 93% of teachers noted that they received other positive results for themselves personally after participating in the training;
  • 84% of the surveyed students consider it necessary to conduct more of. such trainings on PFA for students, and 93% of teachers indicate the need for such additional trainings for both students and teachers;
  • 59% of surveyed students and 62% of teachers say that, from their point of view, there is a lack of certain resources and psychological support activities available in Ukraine (e.g., self-help techniques after experiencing severe stress, activities to develop psychological recovery and stress management skills, and additional recommended intervention techniques for providing first psychological support – workshops, work on suicide prevention, support for military families and military personnel themselves, and creating and running support groups for a wide range of people).

So, as we can see, the development of PFA skills contributes to the formation of a more positive vision of their own future among representatives of different generations of the educational sector, and this is the key to the productive development of Ukraine’s labor potential, as young people will enter the labor market this year and in the coming years. Of course, we cannot hope to recover quickly from the horrors and stresses we still experience every day, but supporting the development of a healthy attitude toward our own vulnerability is essential to building a mentally healthy society and a key to the development of Ukraine’s economy. Therefore, ERA does not plan to stop there, and a number of follow-up events on various issues of psychological support for representatives of partner educational institutions and companies displaced from the southeastern part of Ukraine are already being developed. Further,  ERA intends to adapt to the current Ukrainian context and disseminate a manual on introducing a psychosocial support component to youth programs.


And this is to be continued! Keeping following our news!