What you need to know
There is a lack of empirical evidence on the impacts of climate change to mental health. This may be due to the challenges of directly linking mental health outcomes to climate change consequences. Preliminary evidence shows that the risks and impacts of climate change on mental health are already accelerating, resulting in direct, indirect, and overarching effects that disproportionally affect populations already facing health inequities. To address the mental health consequences of climate change, coordinated and holistic actions are needed.
Health practitioners can take concrete actions to efficiently and holistically address mental health and a changing climate. They can:
- communicate about climate change and mental health in a way that helps people to see what is relevant to them
- advocate and engage in efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of the health care sector
- adapt measures to prepare for and respond to the psychosocial impacts of climate change.
These measures can include policies, practices, behavioral interventions, community-based interventions, specific training and prescribed medication. Some general approaches include primary care interventions, individual and group-based therapy, cognitive based interventions, and crisis counselling.
Researchers should examine overarching psychosocial consequences, as the awareness of the threats, risks and impacts of climate change may affect emotional and social well-being. This awareness contributes to new phenomena such as:
- “Ecoanxiety”, which refers to the anxiety people face from constantly being exposed to the threatening problems associated with a changing climate.
- “Ecoparalysis”, which refers to the complex feelings of not being able to take effective action to lessen or avoid climate change risks.
- “Solastalgia”, which refers to distress and isolation caused by the home environment no longer providing comfort or a feeling of safety.
This Research Viewpoints is based on the article “Climate change and mental health: risks, impacts and priority actions,” which was published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems in 2018. DOI: 10.1186/s13033-018-0210-6
Let us know in the comment box below if your organization is leading any initiatives/activities related to climate change and mental health!