Ever since Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, our organization’s work changed drastically. It is also true for our work with teenagers. We obviously had to cancel weekly meetings of the club “Girls can” for the sake of the safety of its participants and for organizational reasons. Our work with teens remained valuable for us and we never lost contact with them. Just as elderly women, teenage girls belong to vulnerable populations. That is a hard age that comes along with dozens of challenges and difficulties. Teens often lack understanding from others, especially from those that forgot about going through that period themselves. State of war does not make feelings vanish, but on the contrary, makes them more acute – and teens need our attention just like other people. First of all we asked our teens to share their feelings and life changes. We also shared self-help techniques with them. We later organized a closed meeting of the club and an informal gathering in the cafe. We discussed our life changes, future plans and important experiences of the present.

“hi

during the war the majority of schools transferred to remote education or were shut down. we are studying remotely. teachers adjusted to the new conditions: we have no more than 4 lessons daily, most teachers try to limit study load and be empathetic. my school is infamous for neglecting the mental health of the students, that is why no one actually talks with us about war, and we aren’t getting psychological help. my school now accommodates refugees, so we can’t volunteer there.

i feel much better than at the beginning. i try to stick to the routine, it helps me to distract myself. that’s why I have nothing against school now, as it leaves me less time for anxiety and worries.I try to compose myself and find energy for studying, as I understand that volunteering and studying are the only things I can now do to help my country right now”

Comment of one of the teenagers

Nowadays one of toughest challenges teens face is the need to continue their education.Talks with them showed that teenagers can be roughly divided in two groups. First one consists of the school students that study actively. This way, they say, they contribute to building a brighter future for Ukraine and distract themselves from anxiety-inducing news. Another group is made of bright and active girls, whose love of learning transformed into willingness to improve their mental health. Lack of motivation and guilt is accompanied by devaluation of their feelings by the school workers, and searching for their vocation is complicated by the uncertainty of the future. Sometimes school employees are empathetic and reduce their study load. This, however, is not a rule for all the schools as it heavily depends on the human factor.

“I’m supposed to study remotely, but de facto I’m studying on my own. I have no contact with any of the teachers, aside from the homeroom teacher. 🙁

We receive no psychological help, so I had to search for it on my own.

There are no school clubs, our school is closed, so I volunteer where I can in Sykhiv.

I’m devastated, it is next to impossible to concentrate on studying. It doesn’t help that they keep changing the rules and dates of entrance exams.

But the study load was really reduced – all the tasks and tests are still there, but you have more time to do them.“

Comment of one of the teenagers

Popularization of the culture that centers mental health awareness and ethics of care is impeded by outdated curriculums and organization of work processes in educational institutions. Now it is next to impossible to find competent psychologists in schools, colleges, and universities. That is why in these environments one is ought to resort to the support of peers. Nevertheless, attention and understanding of significant adults is extra important for healthy mental development, regardless of time and geopolitical situation. That is why teenagers that don’t discuss their emotions with parents that instead pressure them into having good grades are facing more problems in the time of war.

“Almost two months have passed since I left the university. My mental state didn’t let me continue my studies. I am now in a psychiatric hospital treating depression and anxiety disorder.

I like it there a lot 🙂

Every day we have group therapy sessions where we discuss our well-being. They were created right after the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Of course, just like everybody else, I am deeply worried about what is happening in our country, and about our everyday lives, but therapy and thick walls of the shelter calm me down. A lot of people here are awfully anxious because of the war, and I understand them well: we fear death.

It is only now that energy and desires are beginning to return to me. I feel renewed, but it is evident that my recovery is slowed due to the situation. I am trying to compose myself. For now I study individually. I am also engaged in volunteering online.”

Comment of one of the teenagers

Luckily, contemporary teens are more involved in psychoeducation than the previous generations. Time spent with friends, literature and art, frequent walks and healthy sleep help to recharge their energy. Other useful things are free support groups for teens or women of any age, informal educational meetings, cultural spaces and various clubs – they help to feel a sense of belonging.


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