As Russia advances further into Ukraine, an estimated 1 million civilians have been forced to flee their homes. With refugee numbers continuing to climb, associate professor Ekaterina Botchkovar foresees a spike in post-traumatic stress disorder and violence among Ukrainians based on previous research she conducted in the wake of a prior Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Ukrainians who are forced to relocate will, according to Botchkovar’s research, experience the highest levels of PTSD compared to those who remain at home. But Botchkovar worries, too, about the majority of Ukrainians who aren’t displaced but still experience the war indirectly through media or stories from friends and family. These people, Botchkovar says, are less likely to seek help for mental-health issues caused by the war, which puts them at higher risk for experiencing PTSD symptoms. “Anyone would advise you to see a psychologist if you’ve experienced bombings, but for the more indirect exposure, you might not understand that you have trauma. Our research shows that these people can become angry and violent. They don’t behave in ways that they normally would, and they might not realize it’s from the trauma,” she says.