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New digital mental health tool supports Ukrainian refugees

The aim of the scheme is to help patients become more active and build positive activities effectively.

People charge their phones using power from a generator in eastern Ukraine
People charge their phones using power from a generator in eastern Ukraine - Copyright AFP GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
People charge their phones using power from a generator in eastern Ukraine - Copyright AFP GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Several hundred Polish specialists are caring for the mental health of people from Ukraine. This is being supported by advances in technology. One prominent example is the iFightDepression MESUR programme.

Clinics, practices, and support organisations are distributing access to the free psychoeducation tool (iFightDepression.com) in Ukrainian. This means that any Polish or Ukrainian mental health professional can become a guide to the tool for people from Ukraine. The programme has been funded by the European Commission. The European Commission has declared mental health as one of the pillars of the European Health Union.

In terms of what the digital application offers, this includes online exercises for self-management of depressive symptoms. The tool is designed to be used by the patient themselves, but access is given by a psychologist, psychotherapist, medical doctor, crisis intervener or recovery assistant. These approaches belong to a category known as MHPSS, or “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support”.

Interest in such approaches has increased following the increase in refugees arriving in Poland from Ukraine. One immediate challenge were the circumstances where psychiatrists find it difficult to deal with and help patients when they do not speak the patients’ language.

In the tool.iFightDepression.com, the patient chooses the language of the exercises for his or her-self, and the professional knows what s/he is recommending because s/he has previously learned the content in his/her language.

Several workshops are being set up to teach health professionals about the application. These are digital workshops that act as a primer on self-awareness. In mild forms of depression, they foster the self-management of depressive symptoms and support recovery.

Two of the workshops teach behavioural activation techniques using an activity diary and planning positive activities in advance. The aim here is to help patients become more active and build positive activities effectively.

Another workshop deals with monitoring one’s sleep disorders, which are often associated with depression. The fourth workshop takes people through problem-solving training and allows them to break down a large task into manageable sub-steps. This technique has been linked to a reduction in depressive symptoms.

The fifth and sixth workshops focus on negative beliefs and the acquisition of alternative thinking patterns. This is the classic content of cognitive behavioural therapy.

It remains important that a person going through difficulties is not left alone with a tool, but has a guide from a psychosocial support point, such as a counselling centre or at least a helpline.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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