Art therapy brings relief to the children of Ukrainian seafarers


Olena Zelenska, Ukraine’s First Lady, has highlighted the plight of Ukraine’s children to the world at large during an interview with NBC while in the USA appealing for more weapons.

It’s an issue that has also been concerning Charles Watkins, CEO and Founder of Mental Health Support Solutions (MHSS) which was set up to provide a range of support services specifically to the maritime sector. “For parents there is nothing more critical than knowing that their families, particularly their children, are safe and happy, so supporting children is a vital way to help seafarers. Children can appear to be very resilient but the impacts of war will be affecting them in many different ways.”

A team of 320 MHSS psychologists has been working with the families of seafarers caught up in the war with Ukraine as part of a €1.4 million package of measures put together by Columbia Shipmanagement and shareholder Schoeller Holdings as well as employees and other clients. The fund has provided accommodation and psychological support to traumatised seafarers and their families at designated ‘Columbia Sanctuaries’ in Poland and Romania. The need for the sanctuaries has proved sufficiently great that the scheme has been extended for a further period.

Mr Watkins continued, “Working with the families it became clear to us that the children needed more support to be able to come to terms with what had happened to them. We have developed an art therapy programme to help them express their feelings and retell their experiences without the need to verbalise them. This is a direct benefit for the children themselves but also indirectly helps their parents to know that they have an outlet for their emotions.”

Responsible for the art therapy programme is Romina Hammermann. She has been trained in therapeutic pedagogy, art therapy and continued her studies in trauma therapy at the University Medical Clinic in Ulm.

“The feedback from the parents has been very positive. They are understandably worried about the aftermath of the situation on their children and have been very grateful that the specific needs of the young have been catered to by the therapeutic assistance and care they have received,” concluded Mr Watkins.