Ukraine War Takes Toll On Students’ Mental Health

Featured image by @newyorknico on Instagram

On Feb. 24, at around 10 p.m., Sima Sadykhov arrived home after work when her brother told her that Russia invaded Ukraine. Sadykhov said she had never felt such sorrow before. 

Sadykhov’s mom’s side of the family is Russian, and she has distant family, cousins and uncles, living in Ukraine — or rather used to, as now they have fled to surrounding countries in hopes of saving themselves. Avoiding social media for the following weeks would have been best for her mental health, but she couldn’t bring herself to detach from her phone.

“Seeing everything on social media, it is a lot,” Sadykhov said. “Even though it is a good way to inform people, at some point it became too much for me, and I had to delete instagram because the updates on the situation stressed me.” 

Just like Sadykhov, students’ mental health is suffering, and, according to the American Psychological Association, experiencing the same levels of mental stress as when COVID-19 hit. The polls found that “84% of U.S. adults agreed the Russian invasion has been terrifying to watch.”

For the last two years, students have been dealing with extreme fear as a cause of the pandemic, and now with the events in Ukraine, experiencing dramatically high levels of mental stress. The American Council on Education reported that college presidents at public four-year institutions pinpointed “mental health of students” as their most pressing issue. 

More than 1,700 Ukrainian students studied in the U.S. during the last fiscal year, according to Open Doors data. Nearly 750 CUNY students are of Ukrainian ancestry and 25 with a home address in Ukraine.

One Greek-Russian student that a reporter talked to said he’s been having trouble sleeping since the war began and his father asked him to refrain from speaking Russian in public for safety reasons.

In an online post, Chancellor Felix V. Matos Rodríguez acknowledged the “complicated feelings of anxiety and grief” that Ukrainian students are experiencing and offered resources including counseling, emergency financial grants and other services.

Hunter faculty members are reaching out to their Ukrainian students to offer support.

“I’ve been talking with them and they’re very torn between what to feel because most of them have relatives, sometimes immediate relatives in Ukraine, and they are very anxious,” said Assistant Professor Yasha Klots, who teaches Russian literature.

Junior Daniil Frolov is one of the students that is very worried about his family in the Ukraine. 

“I am trying to juggle keeping up with the family and doing what I can to help,” he said. “It makes it harder to focus especially during midterm season while simultaneously trying to see if my family is alright.”



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