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Professor helps healthcare workers and refugees of Ukraine war with mental health

Dr. Joshua Kreimeyer got back to Colorado last week after working in Ukraine, Poland and Hungary.

DENVER — At home in Denver, things are calm, but they can also be frustrating for Regis University Assistant Professor Dr. Joshua Kreimeyer

“It’s interesting because I hear people complaining about things like getting their coffee," he said. "Like, 'oh I didn’t get the right foam.' It’s hard not to get a little angry."

Kreimeyer has perspective after coming back from a trip to Ukraine, Poland and Hungary last week.

As a professor in Regis' Division of Counseling and Family Therapy, he knew his mental health training was needed on the front lines.

Kreimeyer, who is fluent in Russian and conversational in Ukrainian, has been traveling to Ukraine since 2015 to train mental health workers.

As a veteran, he knows the horrors of war, but it never gets easier hearing the traumatic stories.

"The very simple act of sitting and having a cup of coffee was a guilty pleasure for many of the people that were helping the refugees," he said. 

Kreimeyer said this trip's focus was to help the helpers. A conference that had already been scheduled before Russia invaded Ukraine was needed even more.

“They just couldn’t believe that we came into a war zone to do this work, and I was like, I couldn’t not go. I had to go," he said. 

Kreimeyer and his colleagues focused on training around compassion fatigue. They bore witness to refugee stories, and mental health workers asked for help treating trauma after sexual assault. 

"Because unfortunately troops are actively sexually assaulting people as part of the war," Kreimeyer said. 

He said his team put themselves in the middle of the refugees' stories. 

"And it’s very heavy," Kreimeyer said. "You come back with more than your luggage."

RELATED: Colorado mechanic in Ukraine gives update on volunteer efforts

RELATED: Littleton woman plans trip to Kyiv to visit her mother in the hospital

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