Menu close
February 24, 2024

Two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, psychological scars run deep, threatening to cripple a generation’s dreams and aspirations. 

A mental health crisis looms in this country where, particularly, young people now face an uncertain future. 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 3.7 million Ukrainians are internally displaced, with almost 6.5 million others living as refugees across Europe and beyond. Among them are young people, who face a stark reality. Education has been disrupted, opportunities are scarce, and the psychological impact of the war is profound. 

Ksenia Ukolova, a 20-year-old Young Diversity Ambassador at ActionAid partner STAN, shares her reflections on the two-year conflict.

“We are facing a crisis; a psychological crisis [and] we are feeling drowned. Many people somehow are [psychologically] paralyzed because of anxiety and negative thoughts. They cannot keep it together and are unable to start [rebuilding] their lives.

After the fight, the armed war will be over (but) we will have mental war [still] and our country and our society is simply not used to welcome those people who survived. We are not open enough to understand and fulfill others’ needs because we are concentrated on our specific personal ones.” 

Many young Ukrainians express feelings of fear, anger, and despair. Two years on, the prospect of continued escalation casts a long shadow over their already uncertain future. Their sense of normalcy has been removed, and the constant threat of violence weighs heavily on their minds.

Nastya, a regional manager for STAN in Volodymyr, said: 

“Children are living in a very difficult situation, and in the future, it [the war] will always affect them, and it will be very difficult. That’s why I’m probably more worried about the future for teenagers.

The most difficult thing now is that they are trying to suppress their emotions. They want to pretend everything is fine. They try to abstract (distract themselves) from this situation. And they even act as if the war is not there, but in fact, they are very worried about it. And thus, they do not understand that their denial is negatively affecting their psychological state.” 

Despite the immense challenges, the resilience of young Ukrainians shines through. Many are actively volunteering, participating in peacebuilding initiatives, and expressing their hopes for the Ukraine that they want. In this regard, ActionAid and its partners are supporting empowerment programs that specifically target internally displaced and war-affected women and youth to equip them with the necessary tools to cope with trauma and make their voices heard in decision-making spaces.   

Ivanka Chuiko, a young person from Volodymyr, said: 

“The Ukraine of my dreams is a free, peaceful, and safe country in which there is no war, and in which all people, regardless of gender and identity, have free rights and opportunities. And I hope that very soon, everyone will be able to build their future without shelling and alarms.” 

Yulia Verbytska, a Ukrainian student in Belgium, said: 

“Ukraine of my dreams is a happy place for all, free from occupiers, from corruption and inequality.” 

However, the situation on the ground calls for urgent support from the international community to end the war and begin the long process of recovery that leaves no one behind. ActionAid and other national and international CSOs have highlighted the lack of knowledge and means of participation by the affected populations in the Recovery agenda, especially for youth and women-led organizations. 

Kirsten Sutherland, the Humanitarian Program Coordinator at ActionAid Spain, said:

“The mental health situation in Ukraine is dire. The needs of the population, especially access to counseling and therapy, as well as the rights of the most vulnerable groups, including LGBTIQ+ communities, must be urgently addressed. The only way to ensure that Ukrainians, especially the young, can live in peace and security and can access the support they need to recover is an end to the war.”


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593.


  • Kirsten Sutherland is the Humanitarian Program Coordinator at Alianza por la Solidaridad-ActionAid Spain, based in Seville (Spain). 
  • Lucas Chastand is the Ukraine Emergency Response Humanitarian Country Manager, based in Kyiv (Ukraine).  
  • Yaroslav Minkin, founder of youth organization STAN / Yuliya Lyubych, education coordinator. STAN 

About ActionAid    

ActionAid is a global federation working withmore than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries.We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.