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Climate change

Theme leaders: Jura Augustinavicius & Rachel Williamson
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The climate crisis is adversely affecting population mental health. The impacts of the climate crisis on mental health are related to collective problems that are experienced unequally, such as insufficient political will and harmful policies, increased disaster exposure, poverty, violence, the erosion of important places and landscapes, and harms to human physical health and the health of ecosystems, along with others (Augustinavicius et al., 2021; Berry et al., 2018).

Working with populations most impacted by the climate crisis, research is needed to better understand and assess mental health in the context of the climate crisis and to identify and test appropriate intervention strategies. Projects are currently being developed under this theme.


Projects under this theme will aim to

1. Provide conceptual clarity to the varied mental health responses to climate change,

2. Develop methods of assessing mental health in the context of climate change,

3. Develop appropriate intervention strategies with communities most impacted by climate change. 

Project suggestions and collaborators welcome! To get involved or learn more, please contact Rachel Williamson or Jura Augustinavicius.

1. Climate change and mental health network

 

Project group

The network is open to researchers and clinicians with an interest/expertise in the intersection of climate change and mental health. We are particularly interested in expanding the network to include members from underrepresented (i.e., non-Western) geographical areas. To get involved or learn more, please contact Rachel Williamson or Jura Augustinavicius.

Current network members

Rachel Williamson (PI), University of Montana, US

Jura Augustinavicius, McGill University, Canada

Phoebe Bean, University of Montana, US

Gary Belkin, Harvard, US

Fiona Charlson, University of Queensland, Australia

Susan Clayton, Wooster College, US

Ashlee Cunsolo, Memorial University, Canada

Christy Denckla, Harvard, US

Michel Dückers, ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre/University of Groningen, Netherlands

Selina Hardt, University of Montana, US/Germany

Jetske van Heemstra, ARQ Cetrum '45, Netherlands

Sara Helmink, chairwoman Stichting Klimaatpsychologie, Netherlands

Jinhee Hyun, Daegu University, South Korea

Oj Jiaqing, Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT), Singapore

Ashraf Kagee, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

Emma Lawrance, Imperial College London, UK

Sarah Lowe, Yale School of Public Health, US

Alessandro Massazza, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Kelton Minor, Columbia University, Data Science Institute

Tulsi Modi, Planetary Health Alliance, US

Jessica Newberry, Imperial College London, UK

Nick Obradovich, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, US

Meaghan O'Donnell, University of Melbourne, Australia

Miranda Olff, Amsterdam UMC, Netherlands

Larry Palinkas USC, US

Martin Paulus, Laureate Institute, US

Ans Vercammen, University of Queensland, Australia

Francis Vergunst, University of Oslo, Norway

Background

Climate change represents an immediate and ongoing threat to population mental health, including traumatic stress responses. In addition to the mental health consequences of extreme weather events, the climate crisis involves the disruption and destruction of ecosystems and landscapes that support livelihoods and well-being (e.g., Augustinavicius et al., 2021). The psychological, physical, economic, and social, impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt by people already experiencing a range of adversities (e.g., Berry et al., 2018). It is imperative for mental health care providers and researchers to engage in intervention and advocacy efforts to address this ongoing crisis.

Aims

Projects developed by this network will aim to:

1. Provide conceptual clarity to the varied mental health responses to climate change,

2. Develop methods of assessing mental health in the context of climate change,

3. Develop appropriate intervention strategies with communities most impacted by climate change. 

We will start with a position paper focused on the role of psychology/psychologists in the climate crisis,

as well as empirical study summarizing mental health professionals’ current practices (e.g., how often are they “treating” climate-related distress? What approaches are they using and what’s effective?)

References

Augustinavicius, J., Lowe, S. R., Massazza, A., Hayes, K., Denckla, C. A., White, R. G., Cabán-Alemán, C., Clayton, S., Verdeli, L., & Berry, H. (2021). Global climate change and trauma. International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.

Berry, H., Waite, T. D., Dear, K. B. G., Capon, A. G., & Murray, V. (2018). The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 282-290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0102-4

Other resources

IPCC 6th assessment: https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/

ISTSS Briefing Paper on Climate Change and Trauma: https://istss.org/public-resources/istss-briefing-papers/briefing-paper-global-climate-change-and-trauma

2. Differential impacts of and responses to climate change

 

Project group

Rachel Williamson (PI),  Phoebe Bean

Background and aims

The group is developing an online survey to assess prevalence, type, and impact of psychological responses to climate change, as well as coping methods and perceived effectiveness among adults. The question, “who is experiencing what?” is central to the aim, as different demographic variables (e.g., age, SES) are expected to predict different responses. The survey will collect quantitative and qualitative data. The study will pilot in Montana (US) and be refined for use with a global sample.

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3. The multifaceted mental health burden of climate change

 

Project group

Francis Vergunst (PI), Rachel Williamson, Helen Berry, Miranda Olff

Background and aims

The goal of this paper is to present a conceptual model that describes the multifaceted mental health burden of climate change and, specifically, the functional domains that may be impacted. Empirical evidence suggests that climate change is exacerbating existing mental health conditions and creating additional challenges. The proposed model examines these layered and overlapping impacts on a dual-continuum that includes high/low dimensions of psychiatric diagnoses and psychosocial wellbeing.

Projects of interest (not exhaustive)

  1. Assessment and summary of mental health professionals’ current practices and experiences addressing climate-related distress.

  2. Empirical exploration of mortality salience as a mediating variable in the relationship between climate communication/awareness and behaviors/social-psychological responses.

Organizations and networks working on climate change and mental health

PHA

We are proud to announce that the GCTS is a formal member of the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA) a consortium of universities, non-governmental organizations, research institutes, and government entities from around the world committed to understanding and addressing global environmental change and its health impacts. We aim to collaborate on projects that directly or indirectly impact traumatic stress levels around the world. 

Learn more about planetary health science, solutions, and ways to get involved (PHA). 

CO  

COP² is a global network of organisations generating tangible policies and actions that will strengthen our ability both to endure and to innovate and adapt to the climate crisis.

Read more

CCM

Connecting Climate Minds (CCM) Project

This is a new initiative, in partnership with the Imperial College of London and funding from the Wellcome Trust, to address the mental health impact of a changing planet. The goals are to build: 

1.       An inclusive and actionable research agenda that provides the evidence needed for policy and practice to safeguard mental health while enabling planetary health action, deeply grounded in the needs of people with lived experience.

2.       A connected, supported and engaged community of practice (regionally and globally) with the right tools to enact this agenda, including greater capacity and knowledge sharing.

Read More 

UnitedGMH

United for Global Mental Health is an international NGO working for a world where mental health support is accessible to everyone, everywhere without stigma or restrictions. Climate change, the environment, and mental health represent key areas of focus.

Psy4F

Psychologists for Future / Psychotherapists for Future (Psy4F) is a trans-institutional and non-party affiliated climate advocacy group of psychologists and psychotherapists contributing psychological and therapeutic expertise to meeting the challenges that are posed by the climate crisis in addition to be able to establish a sustainable future.

Read more

Stichting Klimaatpsychologie

Stichting Klimaatpsychologie is the Dutch foundation of climate psychologists with a mission! They are happy to collaborate and support global initiatives where they can. 

Read more

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