Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

Coping With Disturbing Headlines


Many are feeling overwhelmed by the news of the war in Ukraine. Advise patients to find comfort in normal routines, including sleeping, eating, and physical activity. 

As the war in Ukraine continues, our patients may find themselves experiencing a range of emotions. Symptoms may include frustration, anger, sadness, and helplessness and an increase in anxiety or trauma-related symptoms. Patients may be more watchful, guarded, and withdrawn. Sleep concerns might become more pronounced, and some patients might be using more alcohol or other drugs. Patients who served in the military may become more preoccupied with memories of their own deployments. Some might struggle with how they are making meaning out of those experiences and their own military service. 


Healthcare professionals have a role in helping patients achieve well-being by addressing physical, psychological, relational, and environmental health. Here’s three things we can do:  


1. Acknowledge that world events can impact individuals and ask whether this is your patients’ experience.

If patients report anxiety or depression, ask about triggers and assess the symptom timeline. Utilize an evidence-based self-report screening tool such as the Patient Health Questionnaire 9. If your patient is a child, “Talking to Children about War” is a good resource. 


2. Reinforce the positive strategies that your patients are using and offer suggestions.

It may be helpful for patients to balance the negative with positive. The National Center for PTSD suggests reducing exposure to news and conversations about current events, like scheduling limited time to watch or discuss news coverage, and increasing pleasant events and/or self-care , like spending time with trusted friends and loved one. Advise patients to stick to normal routines, especially for sleeping, eating, and physical activity. For those who need more support, share resources like the Disaster Distress Helpline for 24/7 crisis counseling that offers support in many different languages. Know what local resources are available.  


3. Increase your own self-care.

Supporting patients impacted and managing one’s own exposure to world events can be stressful. Engage in self-care and reach out for help when needed. 








This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.