As the war between Russia and Ukraine rages on, children are not exempt from traumatic experiences, which often include being forced to leave their homes, separation from family members, and losing loved ones. In addition to short-term effects, such as stress, fear, and depression, children can also suffer from long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“There are moments and events that leave a mark for many years and can change an entire life,” explains Dr. Itai Pessach, Director of the Safra Children’s Hospital at Sheba. “When I traveled to establish the infrastructure of Israel’s field hospital in Ukraine, I met young children who were torn from their lives and became refugees overnight. It was clear to me that the biggest difficulties still lie ahead, as they will need to cope with the trauma. After returning to Israel, as the director of a children’s hospital, I knew we must come up with an original method to help the children and their parents cope with the crisis they are going through.”
Committed to supporting the people of Ukraine, and those most vulnerable in particular, Sheba partnered with Oranim Academic College to help traumatized children by developing a unique tool: a therapeutic game that allows children to process what has happened and restore a sense of normalcy through a series of linked activities.
Created by Dr. Pessach and Dr. Livneh, a pediatric and adolescent trauma care expert at Oranim Academic College, the game helps children talk about their emotions and traumas, as well as visualize an alternate reality through which they can share their fears and concerns. Sharing their concerns with “worry dolls,” children can ‘transfer’ their anxiety to the dolls. By doing so as part of a game, perceived as such by users, the children are more inclined to open up.
According to Dr. Livneh, “We have created a tool that allows them to speak in their language, the language of children. It is important to be able to mediate children’s experiences, and to give them customized tools to psychologically process the changes that were made in their lives to reduce the level of stress and anxiety they are in and to reduce future damage as much as possible.”
The game boxes, handcrafted by hundreds of children from schools across Israel, youth movements, and children hospitalized at the Safra Children’s Hospital who volunteered to help, were delivered to Ukrainian children suffering from PTSD at Sheba’s ‘Shining Star’ field hospital in Ukraine, with very positive results.
Sheba will continue supporting the people of Ukraine, with new initiatives already in the works.