Rising Mental Health Concerns in the Face of Climate Change: A Call to Action by Psychiatrists

Climate Change Addressed by Psychiatrists

Overlooked Mental Health Impact of Climate Crisis by Experts

In the last few years, climate change has turned out to be more than an environmental and physical health problem, but also one that badly affects mental well-being.

A survey conducted in 2022 and was nationally representative showed that 64 percent of Americans have a varying degree of concern about global warming, with 27 percent extremely worried.

This growing anxiety has resulted in one in ten Americans experiencing climate-induced depression or anxiety symptoms, therefore necessitating a need for social and emotional assistance.

A group of psychiatrists has taken it upon themselves to address this fundamental issue, not just the emotional impacts on climate change but also psychological consequences which have always been more linked to physical health issues.

In this area Dr. Cooper called on fellow psychiatrist to venture. Initially pulmonologists and cardiologists paid attention on the physical aspects of climate change forgetting about mental implications concerned Dr. Cooper.

Dr. Cooper joined hands with other like-minded psychiatrists to analyze literature that explained the repercussion of climatic changes on people’s psyche.

They discovered that there was something known as “climate distress” in which people react differently to nature destruction and mental illness caused by climatic disasters.

The Impact on Vulnerable Populations

Studies indicate that severe weather events worsen mental health problems among individuals suffering from serious mental illnesses.

For example, a study done after a heatwave in British Columbia revealed that over 13% of heat-related deaths occurred among those diagnosed with schizophrenia who had difficulties regulating their body temperatures made worse by certain medications they take.

Another layer of concern regarding mental health effects are suicidal thoughts and violence.

They are multifactorial but have been linked with extreme heatwaves due to increases caused by them due to increased levels.

Thereof, these times also add another dimension creating additional fears about this aspect pertaining to global warming.

Creating Awareness and Action: The Birth of Climate Psychiatry Alliance (CPA)

Based on this development, they formed the Climate Psychiatry Alliance (CPA) which aimed at educating the mental health community and the public on the psychiatric implications of climate change.

CPA’s mission spans to advocating for sound environmental policies that also acknowledge the relationship between mental wellbeing and maintaining a healthy environment.

The organization provides guidance to mental health professionals on how to reduce their carbon footprint through eco-friendly practices.

Dr. Cooper emphasized that healthcare is responsible for approximately 10% of greenhouse gas emissions thus need for sustainability.

Learning from the Past: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dr. Cooper noted that if we keep in mind environmental considerations, it can go a long way in reducing carbon footprints that come with environmentally friendly work practices like virtual conferences and remote consultations as observed in relation to the pandemic.

Encouraging Psychiatrists to Engage in Advocacy

Dr. Cooper highlighted the significance of policy approaches at local, state, and national levels urging psychiatrists to be involved in environmental advocacy.

American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Stand on Climate Change

In March 2023, APA issued a statement with unambiguous instructions highlighting on how urgent there is a need to control climatic change from spiraling out of control by fortifying infrastructure as well as having mitigation plans regarding its impact on psychological health due to natural disasters caused by it.

Dr. Joshua Wortzel, the chair of APA committee on climate change and mental health, has drawn attention to efforts by the committee to steer APA away from fossil fuels and reduce its annual meeting’s carbon footprint significantly by 2030.

They also produced a video that highlighted the impact of climate change on mental health while calling for the establishment of programs that would promote mental wellness and healing after a disaster.

Preparing Psychiatrists for Empowerment: A Review

Dr. Wortzel insisted on partnering with CPA to create courses for medical students, residents, and in practice psychiatrists as a way of preparing future psychiatrists.

The courses aim at helping healthcare practitioners understand how climate change issues affect mental health as well as teach them effective methods they can use to deal with distressed patients.

He stressed the importance of using existing therapeutic skills to address emotional suffering linked to climate change.

Building Resilience and Encouraging Patient Discussions

Both Dr. Cooper and Dr. Wortzel emphasized psychiatrists’ role in facilitating open conversations about patients’ emotional reactions towards climates changes.

According to Dr. Wortzel, it is essential to help patients manage existential despair and build resilience against likely catastrophes.

In summary, there is increasing awareness among psychiatrists regarding climate change’s effects on mental health.

There is a growing realization as well, that this issue should be integrated throughout healthcare practice, education, and advocacy so as to minimize its devastating impacts on individuals and communities as well.

Mental Health Topics (A-Z)

  • Rising Mental Health Concerns in the Face of Climate Change: A Call to Action by Psychiatrists