A psychologist offers mental health counseling to children and adults during the war between Ukraine and Russia

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) – Even as war rages around the world, it can harm our mental health.

The war between Ukraine and Russia is easily visible through social media and the media. Its impact on our mental health is very real. Shanda Wells, a psychologist at UW Health, said there’s a term called “vicarious trauma.”

“This means that if you haven’t experienced a traumatic event yourself, you may feel its traumatic effects by hearing about it, seeing images, or being exposed to it in different ways,” Wells said.

She said limiting wartime updates from news or social media can help, but it’s not a solution. And the problem could affect children. The traumatic stress of war can affect children differently, but certain age groups typically show similar symptoms.

From 1 to 4 years signs of trauma:

-Physical symptoms of possible trauma may be stomach pain, headaches, irregular sleeping patterns, or changes in appetite.

-Since not all children can express themselves vocally, these are important signs to look for.

5 to 11 years signs of trauma:

-Physical symptoms as ages 1 to 4.

-More likely to show emotional reactions such as being moody, sadder, and less cheerful.

-Children could isolate themselves.

12 to 18 years signs of trauma:

-Physical and emotional signs are possible.

-Are more likely to be curious about war and raise serious, existential questions.

“In these situations, children just want to feel safe like all of us. So I really think at all ages it’s good to approach your kids with curiosity,” Wells said.

Wells said it’s important to do internal checks on yourself with how you sleep or eat. When it comes to your feelings, don’t dismiss them.

“Normalizing feelings is really important, right? That it’s okay to feel scared, worried, or curious. We are all feeling this right now. And what you feel is fine,” Wells said.

Psychologists say doing research and having honest conversations can help.

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