Climate change and mental health

  • July 1, 2019
July 1, 2019

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My village was a very good place to live before the flooding. I’m worried about what can happen in the future. I hope that someday I’ll have a home again, because that’s the only thing that brings peace to my mind. Beatrice Chikafa, Malawi Photo: Saara Mansikkamäki / Finnish Red Cross

»Mental health is the foundation of human capability that makes each life worthwhile and meaningful. It is for this reason that there can be no sustainable development without attention to mental health,«

– Professor Vikram Patel of the Harvard Medical School, joint lead editor of The Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health

A new area that will gain much more attention in the coming years is climate change and its implications on mental health. With climate change comes an increase in both frequency and intensity of extreme weather events; the spreading of insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue to new places; a decrease in crop yields in some areas; global sea level rise affecting coastal flooding, water supplies, tourism, fisheries etc.

More people will be exposed to extreme events and therefore to the psychological problems that often follow, such as anxiety, loss, grief, depression and even suicide.

A growing awareness of climate change among populations, including children and young people, is sparking social change and changes in the way we lead our lives. Whether the changes are positive or negative, periods of change are often marked by insecurity and fear, which has an impact on psychosocial well-being.