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Statement on climate change and mental heath

03 December 2019
 
 
 

The College understands the impacts of climate change have significant mental health implications for the wellbeing of our communities.

As psychiatrists, we see the mental health effects and distress from the community associated with drought, floods and other natural disasters brought on by the impact of climate change and other environmental issues.

We acknowledge there are many people, in particular young people, despairing about their futures with some presenting as clinically depressed, anxious and worried about climate change.

The RANZCP Board recently identified this as an area for College focus and has requested the Section of Youth Mental Health assist with advice on possible College work arising from the environment and climate change, and its impact on mental health in our communities.

The College affirms that the impacts of natural disasters and weather events, including those linked to climate change, can affect access to essential needs such as shelter, clean water, medication, power and food.

This can lead to a wide range of direct and indirect negative health effects including mental health problems and mental disorders, health risk behaviours and effects on other social and lifestyle opportunities, health perceptions and physical health.

These conditions can also have far-reaching cultural, social, agricultural, environmental, economic and political effects which can affect our mental health and the quality of our lives.

The impacts can be further devastating for people where geographical barriers can lead to significant delays in the arrival of rescue and response teams, and others forms of assistance.

This can prolong trauma in these communities, delaying the availability of mental health support, and exacerbating emotional distress.

We also know that particular groups are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including young people, the elderly and people with pre-existing mental illness, those in rural and remote settings as well as our Pacific neighbours.

There is a growing body of research about the physical and mental health effects of climate change which the College will continue to monitor and develop into relevant policy statements and guidelines as new evidence emerges.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.