The report warns that mental health risks will increase as temperatures rise and people experience more extreme weather events.
For the first time, the UN’s climate science body has spotlighted the mental health challenges caused by rising temperatures and extreme weather events, in its Climate risks: landmark assessment and humankind’s ability to adapt to them.
In its first report on climate impactSince 2014 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says some impacts are already “irreversible” and that 3.3-3.6 billion people live in “contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change” – a total that is projected to rise.
The report notes there is “very high confidence” that climate change has adversely affected the mental health of people in assessed regions.
The IPCC scientists predicted that mental health issues such as anxiety, stress and post-traumatic stress disorder will increase as temperatures rise. Climate change is particularly dangerous for children, adolescents, seniors, and people with underlying medical conditions.
“It is a huge step that we see mental health mentioned for the first time in the most influential report on climate change,” Gesche Huebner, lecturer in sustainable and healthy built environments at University College London, told Climate Home News. “Climate change is the biggest mental health threat in the decades to come,” she said.
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Scientists expressed “high confidence” that there is an association between high temperatures and worsening mental health. High temperatures are associated with poor mental health. suicide, Hospital admissions for psychiatric patients, Acute stress, anxiety, depression, and other symptoms.
“There is a lot of research linking higher temperatures to psychiatric admissions, but we need more evidence for the causal mechanisms,” Susan Clayton, one lead author of the IPCC report’s health chapter, was also a member of the IPCC team. Climate Home News spoke with Professor of Psychology at the College of Wooster, Ohio. “We don’t yet have good data to say what the exact link is.”
According to a report by Imperial College’s Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the EnvironmentPeople with a preexisting mental illness, such as psychosis or schizophrenia, are at greater risk of dying during heatwaves than those who don’t have it.
Hotter temperatures can have an impact on blood flow, medication effectiveness, sleep quality, and increase the likelihood of conflict in society. These factors all increase mental risk, Emma Lawrance, coauthor of the report, and a mental innovation fellow at Imperial College London told Climate Home News.
According to the IPCC report, extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods can cause a wide range mental health problems including depression and PTSD. “[These events]They can be extremely stressful and traumatic. [resulting] in ongoing changes to communities and forcing people to move from their homes,” said Lawrance.
According to the Grantham Institute report, for every one person who is physically affected by a disaster, there are 40 psychologically affected people.
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To help people cope in the aftermath of an extreme event, countries should invest in providing “psychological first aid” and bolstering emotional resilience within vulnerable communities, said Clayton. “People who are not mental health professionals can be trained to provide that.” Investing in physical infrastructure, such as emergency shelters, can also help people feel safer and “better mentally” ahead of an event hitting, she said.
According to the IPCC report there is less evidence that anxiety over the climate crisis (also known as solastalgia) leads to an increase of mental health problems.
“There is There is plenty of evidence that people are worried, concerned, and fearful about climate change. But, does this affect their mental well-being? Just being anxious about climate does not mean you have a mental illness,” said Clayton.
While the research focus on the topic has increased in the western world, there are major data gaps across Africa, Asia and South America – regions where many communities are highly vulnerable to extreme weather. Huebner said that mental illness is often stigmatized in many countries and suicides may not be reported. “That is a huge issue… It will take quite some time to overcome this. It is really important to work with the countries in question on this.”
Source: Climate Change News