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Climate change poses risk to mental health WHO

by Haruna Gimba

By Asmau Ahmad

A new World Health Organisation (WHO) policy brief has confirmed that climate change poses a risk to mental health.

According to findings from the new policy brief launched on Friday at the Stockholm+50 Conference, climate change poses mental and psychological risks like emotional distress, anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behaviour.

The WHO said the finding also aligns with a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in February.

The IPPC report revealed that rapidly increasing climate change poses a rising threat to the mental health and psychosocial well-being of people.

To address the climate challenge, the WHO is calling on countries to make mental health a priority for action.

The UN health agency urged countries to include mental health support in their response to the climate crisis.

The WHO Director, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health, Dr. Maria Neira, said, “The impacts of climate change are increasingly part of our 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 WHO Director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Dévora Kestel said, “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.

“However, it is clear that climate change affects many of the social determinants that already are leading to massive mental health burdens globally.

“A 2021 WHO survey of 95 countries found that only 9 have thus far included mental health and psychosocial support in their national health and climate change plans.”

“The impact of climate change is compounding the already extremely challenging situation for mental health and mental health services globally.

“There are nearly 1 billion people living with mental health conditions, yet in low- and middle-income countries, 3 out 4 do not have access to needed services.”

Kestel said, “By ramping up mental health and psychosocial support within disaster risk reduction and climate action, countries can do more to help protect those most at risk.”

The new policy brief recommends five important approaches for governments to address the mental health impacts of climate change:

It also called for the integration of climate considerations into mental health programmes, building upon global commitments to mental health, and developing community-based approaches to reducing vulnerabilities among others.

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