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Climate Change and Health: Changing Mindscapes

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Climate Change and Health: Changing Our Mindscapes
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  • Climate Change and Health: Changing Mindscapes

Climate Change is one of the biggest challenges facing humankind today. There are reports of rising global temperatures because of increased carbon emissions. These rising temperatures are causing extreme weather events, an increase in sea levels, the melting of glaciers, and the extinction of important wildlife.

Scientists have been warning about the ill effects of climate change and how it can be catastrophic for our planet.

A Warmer World is Bad News

The concentrations of greenhouse gases are now at their greatest levels in two million years, according to the United Nations. The outcome is that the world has warmed by 1.1°C since the 1800s. The most recent ten years were the warmest ever.

Since the 1800s, the Earth has warmed by around 1.1°C. The Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping the global temperature from rising more than 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels is not being met. That is the maximum to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

While this impacts the natural world and the climatic circumstances threaten humans, there is also a significant economic concern. Swiss Re Institute estimates that if global temperatures rise by 3.2°C, climate change might wipe out 18% of global GDP by 2050.

According to another study, climate change might cause the world economy to lose 10% of its overall economic value by 2050. These economic and climatic concerns have pushed the countries to come together and find a solution to the problem. The Paris Climate Agreement was a step in that direction.

A Silent Threat

While the majority of the concerns around climate change are either economic or weather-related, there is a silent threat. Climate change and health are strongly interrelated. The change in climatic conditions and its impact on the natural world can cause various health-related issues in humans. Some claim that climate change can be the reason for the spread of new viruses that may turn into a global pandemic.

Therefore, it is important to also keep in mind the impact of climate change on human health. We cannot ignore that climate change affects the health of humans in many ways. It is not just limited to physical well-being but also mental health. In a world constantly facing such huge challenges, the lives of many individuals and communities can be impacted severely. This can have strong repercussions on the mental health of vulnerable communities. This is the reason by we must talk about the psychological impacts of climate change.

How does Climate Change affect Mental Health?

According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in February 2021, the threat posed by rapidly escalating climate change to mental health and psychosocial well-being is growing. This threat includes everything from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behaviour. World Health Organisation (WHO) has also realized the importance of including mental health as an important subject in the climate response.

In 2021, the WHO conducted a survey in which 95 countries participated. Out of 95 nations, the organisation found that just 9 had national health and climate change strategies that addressed mental health and psychosocial support. Speaking on this, Dévora Kestel, Director of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO said “The impact of climate change is compounding the already extremely challenging situation for mental health and mental health services globally.

There are nearly 1 billion people living with mental health conditions, yet in low- and middle-income countries, 3 out of 4 do not have access to needed services.” The organisation also recommended that climate considerations be integrated into mental health programs.

Adding To The Anxiety

Additionally, it is established that natural disasters are bad for both physical and mental health. Many people affected by severe weather, as well as slower-moving disasters like droughts, face a variety of challenges. Mild stress and anguish, high-risk coping behaviours like increased alcohol use, and, sporadically, mental disorders including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are among the effects of climate change-related events on mental health.

These findings have further been corroborated through research being done among people after they faced extreme weather events. Researchers at the University of Cambridge examined 41 studies from 2022 that looked at various extreme weather occurrences, including storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires.

They discovered that extreme weather and climatic phenomena seem to make gender-based violence worse. Economic upheaval, societal unrest, supportive settings, and stress are contributing factors.

Are Reports Painting A Different Picture?

A recent study published in the Lancet Planetary Health found that exposure to extreme weather events increased the risk of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other mental health disorders.

The study analysed data from over two million individuals across 27 countries. The study also found that the risk was higher for low-income individuals and those living in urban areas. These findings highlight the importance of addressing climate change as a public health issue. They focus on the need for targeted interventions to protect vulnerable populations.

What is the Need of the Hour for Climate Change and Health?

Limiting the impact of climate change on mental health requires a multi-pronged approach. It involves addressing the root causes of climate change and providing support for those experiencing mental health issues as a result of climate change. Here are some strategies to mitigate the impact of climate change on mental health

Address the Root Causes of Climate Change

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a sustainable economy is crucial to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Reducing the severity and frequency of extreme weather events will reduce the risk of trauma, anxiety, and depression. 

Increase Awareness and Education

Educating people about the link between climate change and mental health can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and encourage individuals to seek help when needed. Community-based interventions such as mental health clinics, support groups, and hotlines can provide a safe space for individuals. 

Provide Mental Health Services

Providing accessible and culturally appropriate mental health services can help mitigate the climate change impact. This includes providing training to healthcare professionals to better recognize and address mental health issues related to climate change. 

Develop Resilience and Coping Strategies

Developing personal and community resilience to cope with climate change can be effective in reducing the risk of mental health. Encouraging individuals to engage in activities that build resilience, such as exercise and mindfulness, can help reduce anxiety and depression. 

Address Equity and Social Justice

Climate change disproportionately affects low-income individuals and marginalized communities. Addressing equity and social justice issues can help reduce the impact of climate change on mental health by ensuring that vulnerable populations have access to the resources and support they need.

Overall, addressing the impact of climate change on mental health requires a holistic approach. It involves addressing the root causes of climate change, providing support to the affected, and promoting resilience and coping strategies. By taking action now, we can help mitigate the impact of climate change on mental health to ensure a healthier and sustainable future for all.

Smile Foundation and Healthcare of Every Kind

Smile Foundation’s ‘Health Cannot Wait’ initiative aims to provide healthcare to all. Keeping the health of children, women, and other vulnerable populations in mind, mobile healthcare units called “Smile on Wheels” reach out to people in far-flung areas and informal settlements of the cities where people lack awareness about basic healthcare, including mental healthcare.

Smile on Wheels takes healthcare to the doorsteps of people and also encourages health awareness and health-seeking behaviour among underprivileged people.

For the poor, health is truly their only wealth! Join hands with Smile Foundation to make quality healthcare accessible to all.

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