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Applying the national mental health policy in conflict-affected regions: towards better social inclusion (Ukrainian case)

Eleanor Quirke (Mental Health for Ukraine Project, Glasgow, UK)
Vitalii Klymchuk (National Psychological Association of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine and at the Mental Health for Ukraine Project, Lviv, Ukraine)
Nataliia Gusak (Department of Social Work, National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Kyiv, Ukraine)
Viktoriia Gorbunova (Department of Social Psychology, Zhytomyr Ivan Franko State University, Zhytomyr, Ukraine)
Oleksii Sukhovii (Center for the Organization of Psychiatric Care, Institute of Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Examination and Drug Monitoring of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Kyiv, Ukraine)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 19 April 2022

Issue publication date: 29 June 2022




The ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine has had wide-ranging health, social and economic consequences for the civilian population. It has emphasised the need for comprehensive and sustainable reform of the Ukrainian mental health system. The Ukrainian Government has approved a vision for national mental health reform. This study aims to draw on the lessons of mental health reform in other conflict-affected settings to identify areas of priority for applying the national mental health policy in conflict-affected regions in the direction of better social inclusion of people with mental health conditions (Donetsk and Luhansk regions, directly affected by the conflict).


A literature review was conducted to identify lessons from implementing mental health reform in other conflict-affected settings. Findings were summarized, and best practices were applied to the national and regional policy context.


The literature described emergencies as an opportunity to build sustainable mental health systems. A systematic and long-term view for reform is required to capitalise on this opportunity. For better social inclusion, implementation of the concept for mental health and mental health action plans in Donetsk and Luhansk regions should prioritise raising mental health awareness and reducing stigma; developing the capacity of local authorities in the development and coordination of services; tailoring mental health service provision according to the availability of services and population need; targeting the needs of particularly vulnerable groups and embedding the activities of humanitarian actors in local care pathways.

Research limitations/implications

This study summarises the literature on mental health reform in conflict-affected settings and applies key findings to Eastern Ukraine. This study has drawn on various sources, including peer-reviewed journals and grey literature and made several practical recommendations. Nevertheless, potentially relevant information could have been contained in sources that were excluded based on their publication in another language (i.e. not in English). Indeed, while the included studies provided rich examples of mental health reform implemented in conflict-affected settings, further research is required to better understand the mechanisms for effecting sustainable mental health reform in conflict-affected settings


The paper describes opportunities for developing a local community-based mental health-care system in Ukraine, despite the devastating effects of the ongoing war.



The article is written with the support of the “Mental health for Ukraine Project” (MH4U), implemented in Ukraine by GFA Consulting Group GmbH and funded by Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The project aims to improve mental health outcomes among the Ukrainian population. The sponsor was not involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of the data or preparation of the article.


Quirke, E., Klymchuk, V., Gusak, N., Gorbunova, V. and Sukhovii, O. (2022), "Applying the national mental health policy in conflict-affected regions: towards better social inclusion (Ukrainian case)", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 26 No. 3, pp. 242-256.



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