How to Take Good Care of Your Mental Health

(for volunteers working with newcomers from Ukraine)
  1. It is important to maintain a regular routine as much as possible, remember to eat and drink, and take breaks when working intensively.
  2. It is good to communicate about problems that may arise during volunteer work, not to keep them to yourself.
  3. It is natural to experience negative feelings such as sadness, exhaustion, frustration, or anger when volunteering.
  4. It is important to attend interviews or supervision sessions when they are available, or try to arrange them.
  5. Keep in mind that you do not bear full responsibility for the lives of the adults and children you are trying to help.
  6. Try to avoid handling difficult tasks alone, but share them with other volunteers and set clear rules for working together.
  7. Bear in mind that expecting gratitude for your work is not in place. People who come and experience traumatic situations may have different expectations, and they may also be frustrated that they had to leave their homes and their old way of life very quickly.
  8. While volunteering, do not forget about your relationships with your loved ones and your hobbies.
  9. Consider being compassionate towards yourself and others. Be kind to yourself and reward yourself for your efforts with at least a small token of appreciation.
  10. When things become more stressful, try to incorporate relaxation techniques or mindfulness into your life.

Prepared by MUDr. Kateřina Duchoňová, psychiatrist and psychotherapist

Psychological First Aid:

(for volunteers and relatives)

• Try to find a quiet place for a conversation and limit external distractions as much as possible.
• Respect people’s privacy and keep the communication confidential if appropriate to the situation.
• Be close to the person, but maintain an appropriate distance depending on their age, gender, and culture.
•   Indicate that you are listening, for instance, by nodding or saying “hmm…”.
• Be patient and calm.
• Give factual information if you have it. Tell the truth about what you know and what you don’t know. “I don’t know, but I’ll do my best to find out.”
• Communicate clearly – speak plainly.
• Acknowledge people’s feelings, their losses, or important events they are talking about, such as the loss of a home or the death of a loved one. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry about what happened to you.”
• Acknowledge people’s strengths and appreciate how they were able to help each other.
• Silence and quiet can help.

• Do not force people to talk.
• Do not interrupt and do not rush (for example, don’t look at your watch while talking, and don’t talk too fast).
• Do not touch people unless you are sure it is appropriate to do so.
• Do not judge people for what they have or haven’t done or how they feel. Do not say “You shouldn’t feel this way,” or “You should be glad you survived.”
• Do not make assumptions or adjust things you don’t know.
• Do not use overly technical terms.
• Do not tell people’s stories to others.
• Do not talk about your difficulties.
• Do not give false promises and false comfort.
• Do not think and act as if all other people’s problems are yours to solve.
• Do not take away people’s strength and the impression that they can take care of themselves.
• Do not speak negatively about people (for example, call them “crazy” or “insane”).

© Charles University, Evangelical Theological Faculty 2019