During a visit to Canada, First Lady Olena Zelenska held a number of meetings and participated in the conclusion of a Ukrainian-Canadian medical partnership with the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families.
Together with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the First Lady met with Governor General Mary Simon and her husband, Whit Fraser.
In 2021, Mary Simon became the first indigenous representative of Canada to hold this position – she headed the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
"Mrs. Simon always defends Canada's national diversity and works hard to support Ukrainians in this country. I thanked her for supporting Ukrainian communities in Ottawa and other cities and provinces, participating in pro-Ukrainian actions, helping to honor Ukrainian culture and thus proving the unity of Canadians and all like-minded countries in helping Ukraine," the President's wife said.
The First Lady also met with Canada's Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Ya'ara Saks and Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Ginette Petitpas Taylor.
Olena Zelenska emphasized that Ukraine is just in the beginning of its path to psychological protection of its people.
"Our All-Ukrainian Mental Health Program "How are you?" should provide all Ukrainians who experience the trauma of war every day with affordable help and teach them self-help techniques," she said.
The President's wife noted that Canada is a world leader in mental health protection. The country has come a long way in this direction, having built a high-quality system of assistance at all levels. A separate Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions of Canada develops state policy in this area.
"Ukrainian specialists who implement such changes in our country must act quickly and efficiently. That is why we ask you to share the standards of care and therapy protocols that underlie your services. Together with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the Mental Health Coordination Center, we will work on their adaptation and development of a route for implementation in real practice," the First Lady said.
She proposed to organize a series of visits of Ukrainian specialists to Canada to share experiences in implementing mental health services for the population.
Olena Zelenska also visited the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. It is one of Canada's best medical institutions for mental health, education and research. The main goal of the center is to increase access and create new opportunities for people with special mental health needs, including veterans and their families, through the convergence of client- and family-centered care.
The center hosts, in particular, the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, a non-governmental Canadian organization (funded by the Veterans Affairs Canada) that brings together leading mental health professionals, scientists and technology to gain a deeper understanding of the brain and research innovative approaches to preventing and treating mental illness in veterans and their families.
The First Lady took part in the signing of a memorandum of medical partnership between the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families and the Lisova Polyana Center for Mental Health and Rehabilitation of Veterans. In 2019, for the first time in Ukraine, the Center began treating disorders related to combat stress and the effects of traumatic brain injuries, combining it with physical and psychological rehabilitation practices.
"Three months ago, when Justin Trudeau and I, along with Health Minister Viktor Liashko, visited the Lisova Polyana Center for Mental Health and Veterans Rehabilitation near Kyiv, I suggested that this experienced veterans' rehabilitation facility should enlist the support of its powerful Canadian "sister", the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, as it has strong scientific expertise in PTSD. And today it is happening. Now, Lisova Polyana will have a partner in Canada for an extremely important cause - the recovery of our veterans," Olena Zelenska said.
The Memorandum is part of the medical partnership launched under the auspices of the Third Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen on September 6, 2023. At that time, 26 medical institutions from Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Lviv, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, Rivne, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Zakarpattia regions signed memoranda of direct cooperation with hospitals in Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Sweden, Spain, Israel, and the Netherlands to share their experience to save lives.
The First Lady also visited the Operational Stress Injury Clinic (OSI) funded by the Veterans Affairs Canada. The institution provides assistance and support to people living with mental disabilities due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other anxiety disorders, depression, as well as to veterans and members of the armed forces.
Treatment involves a combination of medications and group or individual cognitive behavioral therapy.
Olena Zelenska learned about the leading approaches to treating the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, in particular, the presentation by Dr. Rebecca Gomez: a thin needle under ultrasound control is used to inject a local anesthetic into the star-shaped nerve bundle at the base of the neck (developed by the Stress Injury Surgery Clinic in cooperation with the Atlas Institute). The First Lady also learned how to improve memory with the EyeScan light panel, neuromodulation procedures (ultrasound treatment of depression developed by Canada and the United Kingdom), and more.
"We want to adopt all this for Ukraine and our veterans. It is always useful to add other approaches and practices to our own experience and developments. That is why our specialists will definitely go to Canada to study, and thanks to the medical partnership between the countries that we launched at the Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen, the clinics will be able to conduct a dialogue and cooperate directly. And when our veterans feel better after rehabilitation, there will be a Canadian contribution to this," the First Lady emphasized.