Northeast Floridians with ties to Ukraine show support for friends and loved ones

Mental health expert says people should be mindful of how they consume information about Ukraine

It can be hard to pull yourself away from social media and NOT watch the situation in Ukraine, but doctors said at some point you have to unplug -- or even find a way to help.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – People in northeast Florida with ties to Ukraine are trying to stay strong for their loved ones.

The Acosta Bridge was lit up in blue and yellow Saturday to show support for Ukraine. Across the country, there are also signs of support for Ukraine.

People in northeast Florida with ties to Ukraine said it’s hard, sitting and waiting to see what happens next. A mental health expert said they should be mindful of how they consume information about Ukraine.

RELATED: Russia-Ukraine crisis: Protecting your mental health as we watch an invasion unfold

William Eckerson has friends in Ukraine.

“They don’t care of the results. They don’t care how many of their own people die. All they would care about is getting the results they want,” Eckerson said.

Eckerson didn’t want to share his friends’ names or faces for this interview. They’re in Ukraine -- running, seeking shelter or joining the fight.

“We’re here in Florida. There’s not a lot we can do. But, you know, our minds and hearts are with them,” Eckerson said.

Eckerson said his friends are doing what they can with what they’re given.

“It’s mostly keeping everyone calm,” Eckerson said. “Well, there’s air sirens and air raids going on, and cruise missiles hitting, you know, airports.”

He said they knew this was going to happen for weeks now. But when Thursday came, Eckerson was shaken by the reality for his friends of eight years.

“It’s a dark time. And it just seems so, so grim,” Eckerson said. “And the consequences are innocent lives. That’s, that’s the bottom line. And, you know, it’s just very sad.”

He said they have kids with them and were moved into underground bunkers.

On Friday, Eckerson learned two of his friend’s families made it out of Kyiv, but both were instructed to say goodbye to their family and were drafted into the Ukrainian military. He calls them brave, but wishes they didn’t have to experience this.

“No, no one wants this. No one wants prices going up. No one wants to see people die. And it’s hard,” Eckerson said.

Meanwhile, he sits at home, countries and seas away, watching war unfold from his phone.

He’s not alone. Many people across the country have ties to Ukraine. Some of them turn to social media to vent about it or get information on what’s happening there.

As we watch everything unfold in Ukraine, doctors want to remind you to try and protect your mental health.

Dr. Christine Cauffield, the CEO of LSF Health Systems, said sometimes we don’t notice how our intake of this news affects us.

“That’s a very tough thing to be over here when your loved ones are overseas and going through such traumatic events in their lives not to feel extremely impacted,” Cauffield said.

She said if you’re feeling overwhelmed, now is the time to talk to someone.

“It’s really important to stay in touch if they possibly can, get local support as you’re going through this,” Cauffield said. “Be with other families that are going through the same thing.”

We don’t know how long this will last.

“It’s hard,” Eckerson said.

Eckerson is asking people to pray for the country and support them however you can.

It can be a battle trying to stay strong for others, including yourself. Cauffield recommends supporting organizations that are helping people in Ukraine.


About the Author:

A Florida girl and North Carolina A&T SU grad who thrives in breaking news.