Nuclear Explosion

Researchers highlight the need to prepare for the mental health issues that would follow a nuclear event in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 had terrible humanitarian effects, forcing many Ukrainians to flee their homes and be separated from their families, as well as subjecting individuals of all ages to the destruction, suffering, and horrors of war. Many Ukrainians will definitely suffer significant mental health impacts as a result of the prolonged conflict, but these could be exacerbated if Ukraine experiences purposeful or unintentional nuclear explosions.

Researchers from Maryland’s Uniformed Services University and Japan’s Musashino University have published a paper that looks at some of the mental health difficulties that could occur if Ukraine suffers a nuclear disaster. Their research, which was published in Wiley’s Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, explains some of the steps governments and healthcare systems might take to prepare for the mental health implications of such an occurrence.

“Regardless of the extent to which radiological exposure ultimately occurs in the conflict in Ukraine, the potential for such events creates significant risk to global health security,” Joshua C. Morganstein, Robert J. Ursano, David M. Benedek, Mie Kurosawa, and Jun Shigemura, the researchers who carried out the study, wrote in their paper. “Health care systems play a critical role in responding to radiological events and must be prepared to address the direct radiological exposure health needs and the mental health concerns, which are significant and complex.”

While Ukrainian residents are the ones who are most affected by Russia’s invasion, the ongoing conflict also affects neighboring countries and countries with economic links to Ukraine. If a nuclear incident occurred in Ukraine, the resulting mental health repercussions might have an impact on both Ukrainian health-care systems and health-care systems in neighboring countries that are receiving refugees or who may be exposed to radioactive fallout.

Morganstein and his colleagues looked at several radiological incidents that occurred in the past and discussed some of the mental health repercussions of these events in their research. This covers the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster, the 1986 Cernobyl disaster, and the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

“These events create fear, uncertainty, and heightened risk perception, as well as a decreased sense of safety, insomnia, increased use of alcohol and other substances, interpersonal conflict, and stigma or blaming within and among communities,” Morganstein and his colleagues wrote in their paper. “Rates of psychological disorders (e.g., major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder) and significantly increased with some studies finding symptoms persist for decades after the event.”

Past research suggests that the two groups who suffer most mental health issues following radiological accidents or events are disaster responders and mothers of young children. Nonetheless, these events can significantly impact all citizens exposed to the radiation, as well as those who are unsure about whether they were exposed to it or not.

“Radioactive material is relatively novel to most citizens and health systems,” the researchers explained in their paper. “This enhances distress about the unknown and the invisible. It is often unclear when one has been exposed to nuclear material, particularly at low levels. These aspects of uncertainty, regardless of actual exposure, lead to predictable surges in health care demand by the public, while avoidance of the workplace by health care providers fearing contamination may reduce access to care.”

According to Morganstein and his colleagues, it is critical for politicians and health-care workers around the world, but especially in Ukraine and its neighboring nations, to begin planning for the mental health crises that would follow a nuclear calamity. They outline a series of actions that governments and social workers should prioritize in preparing for these events in their paper.

Firstly, the team suggests that governments should start educating the public about the health risks associated with radiation exposure, as well as behaviors that could reduce these risks or protect their families. This includes disseminating information about the evacuation processes typically implemented in these cases, as well as measures to reduce their exposure to radiation, such as the use of protective gear and early signs of exposure.

According to Morganstein and his colleagues, it is critical for politicians and health-care workers around the world, but especially in Ukraine and its neighboring nations, to begin planning for the mental health crises that would follow a nuclear calamity. They outline a series of actions that governments and social workers should prioritize in preparing for these events in their paper.

“While the future remains uncertain, events unfolding in Ukraine raise global concerns about the potential for radiological events,” the researchers added in their paper. “In the event of a large-scale radiological event, health care systems will serve as our first line of defense, and it is imperative they are prepared to address the resulting mental health consequences.”

More information: Joshua C. Morganstein et al, Preparing for the mental health consequences of a nuclear event in Ukraine: The time is now, Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences (2022). DOI: 10.1111/pcn.13363

close

Subscribe to Newsletter !!

Sign up for Newsletter to receive awesome content in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

close
heshmore logo

Oh hi there !
It’s nice to meet you.Sign up to Newsletter receive awesome content in your inbox, every week.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.