Friday, May 1, 2009

Climate Change and Health: Mental Health

Over the past two weeks you've read about a number of health implications of climate change, from cardiovascular and respiratory issues exacerbated by heat to vector-borne diseases like malaria and Lyme disease. Today, we continue the series with a look at the mental health effects of climate change.

Post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression due to extreme weather events or social upheaval are just some of the predicted impacts of climate change on mental health.*

Extreme weather events, sustained droughts, flooding, and changes in traditional food sources are incredibly stressful and many people may choose (or be forced) to leave their homes. Climate change refugees will not only have to deal with displacement but potentially the emotional stress of losing friends and family.

Poor mental health can reduce productivity and increase unrest. Additionally, declining mental health can result in increases in injury and suicide. In the short years following Hurricane Katrina (certainly an example of extreme weather, if not evidence of climate change), suicide rates tripled.

May is Mental Health Month, and here at New Voices we’re going to be posting throughout the month about the importance of mental health research, advocacy opportunities, and profiling leaders in mental health advocacy.

For an introduction to Mental Health Month, we recommend seeing the experts over at Mental Health America; they have some great features including a website dedicated to living well.

*Patz, J.A. Defining the current and future health risks of climate change. Program and abstracts of the American Public Health Association 135th Annual Meeting; November 6, 2007; Washington, DC. Presentation 4077.2.

This is Part 5 of 7 in our Climate Change and Health series.
Part 1 - Climate Change and Health
Part 2 - Heat-Related Issues
Part 3 - Malaria
Part 4 - Lyme Disease
Part 5 - Mental Health
Part 6 - Water-borne Disease
Part 7 - Extreme Weather Events


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