Report warns of society-wide increase in mental illness due to climate change and severe weather
I grew up an hour from Joplin, Missouri, and spent a lot of my formative years heading over there for high school debate-and-drama contests, martial arts lessons, and more. I know people in Joplin and the surrounding small towns. My wife and I still drive through Joplin when traveling home for the holidays. So this year’s epic Joplin tornado hit home for us even more than it did for the millions of Americans who watched the news coverage from afar with horror.
Maybe that’s why the news about a newly released report from Australia’s Climate Institute that links the current and future rise of more severe weather to a rise in mental and emotional illness leaves me fairly thunderstruck (no pun intended). Or maybe it’s that plus several additional considerations, including the facts that 1) my family and I relocated from Missouri to Texas in 2008 partly to escape the epic recent surge (over the past decade) in tornado outbreaks and catastrophically severe winter weather 2) my sister just rode out historic Hurricane Irene in Salem, Massachusetts 3) one of my closest friends was displaced from his home in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and 4) in our new home state of Texas, my family and I are currently enduring historic, record-shattering heat, drought, and wildfires, with local news reported dominated by talk of associated crop losses, burned homes, and impending electricity blackouts due to overstrained grids. This comes on the heels of a 2010-2011 winter that brought record cold temperatures down here.
These things are beginning to hit home, and so the details of this new report about the collective psychological effects of widespread severe weather brought about by climate change make for fairly grim reading. Still, better forewarned than forearmed.
Rates of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says. The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse … The report, A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, called the past 15 years a “preview of life under unrestrained global warming” … The paper suggests a possible link between Australia’s recent decade-long drought and climate change. It points to a breakdown of social cohesion caused by loss of work and associated stability, adding that the suicide rate in rural communities rose by 8 per cent. The report also looks at mental health in the aftermath of major weather events possibly linked to climate change … [According to the executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, Professor Ian Hickie,] “When we talk about the next 50 years and what are going to be the big drivers at the community level of mental health costs, one we need to factor in are severe weather events, catastrophic weather events.”
Full story at The Sydney Morning Herald.