Mental health

A warm welcome to Sweden!

To all who have fled from Ukraine

You have made an important decision to leave your home country. We understand that the decision was not easy and that you would rather not have had to make the journey that has brought you here. That is why it is so important for us that you should feel a genuine and warm welcome to Sweden. You should know that you are not alone. You are going to meet many friendly people in local authorities, municipalities and NGOs who will help you with the practicalities of your arrival and stay here.

It is important to remember to take time to reflect on your emotions and your general well- being.

Dramatic negative experiences can leave you with deep mental images which can often be difficult to process on your own.

Issues about children and family health and safety are important to us at Ideas for Life and the Motivationslyftet. We are both organizations working with preventive measures for better health and increased security, with a special focus on children, young people and their relatives. We hope to provide another perspective on what you and your loved ones can expect – how you can manage your experiences on your own, or who to turn to if you need professional help. Hopefully this folder can help you to sort out your thoughts and feelings and hopefully make it a little easier to take the next step in this difficult situation. Many of us are ready to be by your side with warmth and concern for you and your family. You should know that you are very welcome to Sweden


What happens when you experience trauma?

To be forced to leave your home due to war and end up in a strange place which feels different in many ways can be a difficult experience.
It can mean stress and trauma for many. An unexpected crisis can be experienced and expressed in several different ways, based on our basic state of well being but even external factors. It is not strange if you do not recognize yourself in the following text. We humans react differently to difficult events and the way back is not always straightforward. People’s moods, emotions and physical reactions, can be very individual. Many people experience strong physical and emotional symptoms while others may react more quietly. There are several different ways to describe the different phases you can go through in a crisis. Knowing about this can maybe help you in your process.

Immediately after the event

In the acute first phase, the body can react with different signals such as nausea, stomach pain and strong emotional reactions.
It is also possible to experience an inner denial of what has happened. There is no template for how we humans handle difficult situations. To be withdrawn and silent can be as normal as expressing strong feelings. It is important that outsiders understand the different ways to react. A shock reaction might also mean that, immediately after the traumatic event a person might have difficulty prioritizing and focusing on the practicalities that need to be taken care of. A person who is in shock needs care, comfort and help with short-term practical needs such as food and rest.


A few weeks later

After a while, it is normal to react emotionally to all that has happened. You might be thinking about your own reactions and feel anxiety for the future. Worry, anxiety, despair, fatigue and sleep problems are all typical reactions. First, your emotions might seem random and unsorted. This can lead to difficulties in making choices, prioritizing and thinking long-term. Care and practical help in everyday life is still important. For some, it is valuable to talk about what they have experienced. For others, it is enough to feel support from people in their vicinity. If there is a need, a support group with others in the same situation or professional help can provide important support going forward. Writing down thoughts and experiences can also be a valuable way of processing emotions, specially for people who have difficulty talking about feelings, or have no one to talk to. Children may have difficulty expressing their feelings in words or writing and need to be given the opportunity to draw their emotions as part of their processing.
Reactions may vary but most crisis victims recover over time. Although it may feel difficult, there will come a time when it is possible reason about what has happened. Interest in your surroundings returns and small glimpses of hope and faith in the future begin to emerge.

Your memories will always remain and be a part of your life journey and will characterize many of your choices in the future.

Although it might feel unlikely right now, there is a possibility that over time what has happened can become a strong driving force in the future.


What do you need to think about right now?

After a traumatic experience, it is normal to develop mental and / or physical symptoms such as headaches, difficulty concentrating or anxiety. These are reactions to the stress you have experienced. For some, reaction to stress comes immediately, for others it takes weeks or months. Here are some tips on what you and your loved ones can do to ease the situation here and now:

  • Get support from others. Company, peace and quiet and being cared for provide security in the initial phase. In your new environment, there are people or organizations that can provide support and help. You should not feel compelled to talk about what has happened. It is the feeling of friendship that is the most important, and sometimes that can mean just being quiet together.
  • Focus on the short-term and practical. The first step can be to see if you can find the strength to focus on your short-term time perspectives instead of thinking long-term. It can be about finding everyday routines that help to structure life such as food and rest. Dare to ask others for help if you do not have the strength.
  • Understand what you can influence and focus on that. Understanding what you are able to influence and control provides comfort and strength in an emergency situation. This can be clarified by a simple visualization exercise:

VISUALIZATION EXERCISE: Imagine the image of two circles, one inside the other, where the inner circle corresponds to everything you can influence, your control zone. The outer circle contains all that is beyond your control. The more we focus on things that are outside our control (outer circle) the more our feeling of powerlessness will increase. Right now, there is a lot that is beyond your control. We always feel better when we focus on what we are able to influence, (Inner circle) even if it’s just about small practical decisions for today or deciding what we choose to think about.


Examples of reactions to crisis

People react differently in situations of crisis. Below are some examples of different reactions:

  • physical symptoms (tremors, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, aches and pains)
  • crying, sadness, depression, grief, anxiety, fear
  • being “on your guard” or “jumpy”
  • worrying that something else serious is going to happen
  • difficulty sleeping, nightmares
  • irritability, anger, guilt, shame (e.g., for having survived or for not having helped or saved others)
  • confusion, emotional numbness, feeling unreal or as though you are in a fog
  • being withdrawn or apathetic
  • not responding when addressed or not speaking at all
  • disoriented (, not knowing your own name, where you come from or what happened -feeling unable to take care of yourself or others (e.g., not able to eat, drink or make simple decisions).


If you or a relative needs professional help

If the burden of your situation becomes too heavy to bear, you should seek professional help. This will improve your chances of being able to move on and eventually feel better. You can read more on The Swedish Migration Agency’s website ( or you can contact:

Save the Children. Center for support and treatment (
Red Cross. Care for migrants (
The Healthcare Guide. Contact information for psychiatric care units (

This information has been developed in Ukrainian to help you understand how you might feel in the period that lies ahead, and in Swedish to make it easier for Swedes to understand the situation that refugees from Ukraine are in, and how they might be feeling. A better understanding of each other increases the opportunity for mutual understanding and a common path forward.

Produced by Skandia Idéer for live and Motivationslyftet Star for Life. Illustrator: Anneli Pietikäinen.