Empowering Ukrainian Armed Forces

The Project Trauma Support Initiative: Empowering Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Psychiatrists and Psychologists in Kyiv – A Look Back

Project Trauma Support recently hosted a transformative two-day lecture series at the Humanitarian Institute of the National Defense University of Ukraine named after Ivan Chernyakhovsky. This pivotal event was tailored for psychiatrists and psychologists within the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces, facilitated by our esteemed founder and medical director, Dr. Manuela Joannou, a distinguished Canadian emergency medicine expert with a profound commitment to addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Manuela Joannou shared her insights, reflecting on her extensive three-decade medical journey, with over seven years dedicated to the specialized treatment and rehabilitation of individuals grappling with PTSD. Her focused efforts have predominantly supported Canadian servicemen involved in peacekeeping missions, including those in Afghanistan, as well as police officers and firefighters, benefiting over 800 individuals through our program.

The lecture series began with a poignant moment of silence, honoring the lives lost to the Russian Federation’s armed aggression against Ukraine. Dr. Joannou expressed her deep honor in having addressed the valiant individuals defending their homeland, stating,

“My heart was with you, understanding the adversity you faced. All of Canada stood with you, wishing you safety and health.”

Professor Colonel Vasyl Osodlo, the institute’s head, warmly welcomed Dr. Joannou, acknowledging the exceptional relevance of the course’s subject matter, especially in light of the brutal nature of the unprovoked war initiated by the Russian Federation.

This educational endeavor aimed to foster a comprehensive understanding and effective management of combat mental traumas, stress disorders, and their severest form—post-traumatic symptomatology. It targeted institute students responsible for the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s moral-psychological support and military medicine representatives. This initiative offered an unparalleled opportunity to merge new insights with existing experience, harmonize practices, and enhance mutual empowerment through diverse interaction methodologies. Dr. Joannou’s course was designed to significantly benefit all participants, facilitating the practical application of acquired knowledge.

Emphasizing an interactive educational approach, Dr. Joannou encouraged active engagement from the students, fostering a dynamic learning environment where discussions, inquiries, and shared experiences enriched the educational process.

“Endorsed by the Canadian Medical Association, the curriculum I presented was devised to bolster the participants’ confidence and competence in treating servicemen afflicted with PTSD or moral injuries,” explained Dr. Joannou to the attendees.

The curriculum, introduced by Dr. Joannou, comprised six meticulously crafted modules addressing PTSD, moral and institutional injuries, their interconnections, and strategies for managing depression, anxiety, dissociation, suicidal tendencies, and early intervention techniques. The final modules focused on enhancing resilience to PTSD and moral injuries and tackling compassion fatigue and burnout among healthcare providers and psychologists.

This initiative was organized in collaboration with the All-Ukrainian Interconfessional Religious Christian-Military Brotherhood, underscoring our commitment to addressing the psychological impacts of combat and trauma. Serhiy Lysenko, the Brotherhood’s president, highlighted the ongoing efforts since 2014 to support military and law enforcement personnel through specialized psychological and psychiatric training, drawing on international expertise.

Upon successful completion of the course, participants were accredited with a certificate from Project Trauma Support, marking their enhanced capability to support those affected by traumatic stress. In alignment with our ongoing mission, a similar training program was extended to the healthcare system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, further broadening the impact of our initiatives.

This collaboration embodied our dedication to advancing the mental health and well-being of those on the front lines, reinforcing our global commitment to trauma recovery and support, and reflecting on this event, we remain committed to our mission of providing continued support and education in the field of trauma care.

Source: armyinform.com.ua
Source: https://armyinform.com.ua/2023/06/12/kanadskyj-proyekt-pidtrymka-travmy-u-kyyevi-navchayut-psyhiatriv-ta-psyhologiv-zsu/
Photos: Volodymyr Polishchuk, ArmyInform correspondent

Recharge and Re-Engage

Special Service PTS Cohort # 66

Project Trauma Support is grateful to have received a grant from the J.P. Bicknell Foundation which allows us to offer this special program for First Responders and Military Members who are staying on the job in spite of significant operational stress.

Rainbow over a treeWith increasing challenges faced by those who are the first and last defense of our communities and our country, it is imperative that we develop and implement responsive programming that can assist those who hold the lines in a timely and effective manner. Project Trauma Support has developed a novel residential, experiential curriculum that has shown success in helping first responders process their difficult calls so that they can continue to serve solidly with pride.

Since 2016, we have had over 800 first responders, military members/veterans and front-line medical professionals complete our programs.



For more Information, see www.projectraumasupport.com or email us
at [email protected]

Funding Request

To those who share our concern for the mental health and wellbeing of our military members, veterans, first responders, and front-line health care workers,

As you are likely aware, we are seeing an escalation in the need for mental health care for our emergency and front-line responders. Those we rely on to keep us safe and healthy are facing significant new challenges in today’s world. There are increasing numbers of calls for service and professionals are working overtime and short-staffed due to colleague burnout and budgetary cuts. In addition to this, some first responders, especially police officers, are facing criticism and condemnation from the public more than ever. Media reporting of the performance of emergency service providers is increasingly negative, adding to less job satisfaction.

Project Trauma Support (PTS) has developed a six-day residential experiential program that helps our uniformed professionals and our front-line medical personnel process their painful experiences so that they may remain actively engaged in service. Since 2016, we have had over 700 graduates of our program. Many have indicated that their experience with us was life changing and even life saving. Many have either returned to work or have been able to stay at work as a result of completing the PTS program. Families have reported that they have seen lasting positive changes in their loved ones returning from the program. More recently, we have added ketamine assisted psychotherapy to our programming. Again, staying at the developing edge of new methodologies and emerging evidence, we have developed protocols to safely administer ketamine sessions in both group and individual format with medical supervision and expert psychotherapeutic support.

Our physician led, peer mentor driven program has the advantage that effective, targeted treatment can be delivered in a short time frame, limiting both the cost and the length of time a participant is away from work and their families.

We wish to ensure that we remain adequately funded so that we may continue to offer the benefits of our work to many who are suffering and have not been able to access effective care. We are receiving increasing numbers of referrals from not only past participants who want to send their colleagues, but also from their mental health providers who have seen the benefits. To be able to continue, we need your financial support. As Project Trauma Support is a registered charity in Canada, all donations receive a tax receipt.

We wish to continue to develop the PTS programming, backed by sound research, to demonstrate that the work we are doing is safe, effective and ground-breaking.

Our goal is to scale up our work by teaching our findings and our methods to other physicians and mental health providers across Canada. We believe that we can be part of an effective and affordable solution and that our work can contribute to establishing the standard of care for ensuring the mental health and resilience of those who hold the front lines and are the first and last defense of our country.

Donations can be made through our website: www.projecttraumasupport.com or through searching for Project Trauma Support on the Canada Helps website: www.canadahelps.org

For more information, please contact us at [email protected]


Manuela Joannou M.D. CCFP(EM) FCFP
Medical Director, Project Trauma Support