• Generation Mental Health Team

Perspectives on...Climate Change

In the wake of the devastating fires in Australia, Dr. Fiona Charlson’s article on mental health and climate change sparked conversation on the GenMH team about this global dynamic. We turned to our Peer Advisory Board to ask how climate change is impacting the mental health of their communities, here’s what they had to say...

"Climate change is unsympathetically hard hitting on Kenyans through increased temperatures and erratic rainfalls which make it hard for farming; the main source of living for many Kenyans, and extreme drought that makes it hard for not only pastoral communities but also the entire nation as a whole. Flooding as well as landslides lead to great losses; lives, homesteads, crops and animals. Loss has a great effect on people’s mental wellbeing. The risks and impacts of all these on mental health are already accelerating, resulting in a number of direct, indirect and overarching effects that disproportionately affect those who are most marginalized."

"Afghanistan is an agriculture-based country where the majority of the population are farmers. Farmers are vulnerable to the drought and heavy rains brought on by climate change, which kill crops. For farmers in Afghanistan, economic pressure caused by crop loss creates a need for extra income - in some cases the bride price from a child marriage provides this income. While child marriage, mental health and climate change may seem like seperate issues, they are deeply connected in Afghanistan."

"In Haiti, climate change has a great impact on the population. The weather causes people to live with many stressors, each time it so much as rains we think of past natural disasters, such as the earthquake. I can say with great confidence that the stress caused by climate change creates mental health challenges in our communities."

"Rising sea levels brought about by climate change are displacing people en-masse in coastal areas in Bangladesh. The extreme distress this causes to displaced people leads them to experience depression and anxiety. On the other hand, rising temperatures are expected to lead to more environmental degradation and loss of wildlife, which may again, translate to more mental health distress."

"Within Trinidad & Tobago, there has been an increase in seasonal instability due to climate change. There have been long periods of rain, during anticipated dry seasons, which has caused flooding, property damage, displacement of persons and agricultural damage. With increasing temperatures, there are notable, widespread bush fires that damage the country's agricultural output as well as pose significant risks to persons who live in and around rural areas.

Persons live in fear, with many persons reporting (especially via social media) that in 2019 they had lost their homes due to flooding. Some were even reporting that this was after recovering from their losses due to flooding in 2018.

During the rainy season, expected rainfall is often exceeded by the reality and persons are underprepared for the onslaught, whereas during the dry seasons, the heat is so extreme that livelihood is often impacted with restrictions on water usage being implemented and many persons going without water for daily activities.

It is possible that these tumultuous conditions act as a stressor to persons within the country and can have negatively impacts, especially for those already predisposed to anxiety or depression.”

We want to hear from you, tell us how climate change is impacting the mental health of your community by writing to Liz at liz@generationmentalhealth.org and have your story featured on our blog!