With climate change having stronger and longer-lasting impacts on people, which can directly and indirectly affect their mental health and psychosocial well-being, the need for including mental health support in national responses to climate change is gaining strength.
In a new brief launched at the stockholm+50 environmental summit, the WHO said that several environmental, social and economic determinants on mental health are negatively affected by climate change. The Policy Brief concurs with a report published in February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN body that provides governments with scientific information to inform their climate policies. The IPCC in its report had said that rapidly increasing climate change is a rising threat to mental health and psychosocial well-being from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behaviour.
STEPPING UP SUPPORT
WHO Department of Environment Climate Change and Health Director Dr. Maria Neira said that the impacts of climate change are increasingly part of daily lives, and there is very little dedicated mental health support available for people and communities dealing with climate-related hazards and long-term risk.
The mental health impacts of climate change are unequally distributed, with certain groups disproportionately affected depending on factors such as socioeconomic status, gender and age, according to the brief.
However, WHO said it was clear that climate change affects many of the social determinants that already are leading to massive mental health burdens globally. Out of 95 countries surveyed last year, only nine have included mental health and psychosocial support in their national health and climate change plans.
WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Director Dévora Kestel noted that the impact of climate change is compounding the already extremely challenging situation for mental health and mental health services globally. “There are nearly one billion people living with mental health conditions, yet in low and middle-income countries, three out four do not have access to needed services,” Kestel said.
- Integrate climate change considerations into policies and programmes for mental health, including MHPSS, to better prepare for and respond to the climate crisis
- Integrate MHPSS within policies and programmes dealing with climate change and health
- Build upon global commitments
- Implement multi-sectoral and community-based approaches to reduce vulnerabilities and address the mental health and psychosocial impacts of climate change
- Address the large gaps that exist in funding both for mental health and for responding to the health impacts of climate change