War is terrible. I repeat. War is terrible, it always will be and always has been. What’s different now is that multi media technology streams the vivid images straight into our homes, and deep into our psyche. A Tic Toc war which reaches the younger generations.  We are spared no detail whether it be the inhumanity of the aggressors, the courageous resistance of the defenders, the complete devastation of a country and its people. Now a mighty exodus with the multitudes fleeing westwards, to the unknown, yet somehow trusting it’ll be safer. 

From our small town in Yorkshire in our small country, in the North Sea, the sheer scale of it all is hard to grasp, and as we all know it’s happening now. In order to prevent the breakout of another World War, many Western leaders are currently at odds with their instincts, many privately wishing to offer air support but unable to do so as that would be an escalation and tantamount to declaring war on Russia. So the unthinkable nuclear threat that previously haunted us  is to the fore once more. My Mother declared, before she died, that Suez was the scariest time of her life, and this now appears to be ours. 

My Father served through WW2 in a tank, he fought his way through the desert and then north through Italy from Sicily, and more. He never talked about it and all the family back home received were censored letters, which we still have. The radio, newspapers, and the cinema newsreels were the only source of news back then, so reports were muted, and much was left to the imagination. It’s so very different now and I believe there are both positives and negatives to this. 

As a mental health professional I’m fully aware and deeply concerned about the barrage of graphic images and ‘doom talk’ which now fills our airwaves. After two years of Covid with all the lockdowns, isolation, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs and businesses, and the loss of vital connections to others we find our resilience is being tested as never before. I am particularly concerned for the younger generations along with those who are naturally anxious, and tend towards low mood and depression. 

My professional advice is to limit access to the news, or in more severe cases stop watching it altogether. Keep busy with something you enjoy and which takes your mind off it. Be grateful for at least one thing every day, and plan one thing for the next day. This could be a meal, meeting someone, or going out for a walk. This keeps us grounded in the present so we don’t look either back or forwards, we just go one day at a time. Being anxious isn’t going to change anything, it only changes the way we feel and thankfully we can be helped and learn to feel differently. I can teach coping skills and strategies to anyone who feels overwhelmed by their anxiety. 

Our survival instinct is the strongest force we have, it helps keeps us alive from our first breath to our very last. This instinct is both conscious and unconscious, which is why the supermarket shelves were cleared in lockdown. Supplies are essential to survival and when the world as we knew it goes all to hell, as in a war-zone, therefore it’s not surprising to hear distressing reports of fights breaking out over supplies. It’s simply survival instinct at work.

War is hell personified and always has been. Now everyone can see it for themselves twenty-four hours a day, day in, day out, with no filters. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is a hero, in the best Winston Churchill (and Hollywood) tradition. Only this is 2022, not 1939.  He’s a courageous and tenacious leader and we have to hope and pray that he can prevail with the weapons, aid support and sanctions against Putin. The western cavalry (NATO) won’t be appearing over the hill yet for fear of potential Armageddon. Zelenskiy bravely fights for Ukraine and in truth he fights for all democracies. 

I’ve always believed and experienced that there’s always more good in the world than bad. I still believe this and what the news coverage has done is unite the majority of the western world in condemning Putin’s actions. It’s also galvanised an outpouring of love and support evidenced by practical solutions to help the displaced, the lost, the frightened, the wounded and the grieving. This will be for the long haul, and seeing it in action on the ground in my home town is both humbling and life-enhancing. 

Funds are desperately needed, and being collected by both national and local organisations. Yorkshire to Ukraine is the initiative I’m involved with and five vans have already reached the Polish border. On Monday a large convoy of trucks, organised by the Charity TEECH, head to a refugee camp in Moldova, they’re being loaded this weekend. Another Yorkshire to Ukraine convoy leaves for Poland on Wednesday. 

These initiatives are self funded through local collections, massive sponsorship, donations and fundraising. Over the last week I’ve been privileged to be part of this gigantic logistical challenge checking and packing medical supplies, and I will continue to do this. Every single item has to be sorted, batched and packed according to current export and Moldavian or Polish rules. 

Everything that can be used is, even just to raise funds. Any unsuitable or soiled textiles are recycled at £400/tonne to pay for fuel. Items that are in good condition but not suitable are redirected to the local charities, and this includes hundreds and hundreds of bags for life.  The tide of boxes is currently unstoppable with another 18 tonnes of unsorted donations arriving imminently, all to be processed. The goodwill to help, to be actually doing something positive is not only a human coping mechanism but also part of our survival instinct. It’s part of our Neolithic hardwiring as survival is linked to being part of the tribe, somewhat ironic as all this is caused by one tribal leader trying to conquer another tribe’s lands. 

Here in Thirsk there are hundreds of volunteers who come and go for a day or an hour, or more. Unpacking, sorting, packing, weighing, labelling, repeat, repeat. Also recycling damaged cardboard and clearing the piles of unusable crap away to the tip has become almost a full time job. The organisers are incredible and admit they had no idea what they were taking on when it started.

To help support the specific Thirsk and Yorkshire to Ukraine programme please  donate here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/thirsk-ukraine-aid-support?utm_term=EdK4WQWqw

For TEECH please donate here:  https://wonderful.co.uk/pay?ref=1074765

For National donations please donate to the DEC here https://www.dec.org.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIx67Zj66-9gIVh-7tCh38zggsEAAYASAAEgLflPD_BwE