Experts warn that climate change can have an impact on mental health

Climate change-related hazards, according to experts, can have a significant impact on mental health.

This manifests as family stress as a result of not being able to put enough food on the table due to reduced crop harvests.

According to one survey, family violence may be one of the consequences of climate change.

The African Coalition of Communities Responsive to Climate Change discovered a link between unfavorable weather and mental health.

“Changes in weather patterns are already raising food prices. “This is increasing family stress,” said Dr. Pamela Nkirote, executive director of the organization.

Increasing femicides and suicides and other forms of violence at the family level could be one of the consequences of climate change.

Dr Nkirote cited the 108 recorded deaths of women at a locality in Kenya by police in 2018 attributed to family stress.

She said although it is not yet official, the majority of depression cases resulted from individuals suddenly rendered poor due to climate-related events like flooding.

These include wealthy people suddenly made poor by the death of thousands of their livestock due to drought and other climate-related impacts.

“Husbands whose livelihoods rely on climate-dependent livestock or crop farming often become irritated, violent and suicidal due to loss of confidence in taking care of their families,” she added.

Dr Nkirote is a counseling psychologist and president of the International Society of Substance Use Prevention and Treatment in Kenya.

The findings by the Kenyan-based regional NGOs concur with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) assertion of the situation. A recent policy brief from the specialized UN agency said climate change poses “serious risks to mental health and wellbeing.”

The WHO, therefore, called on countries to include mental health support in their response to the climate crisis. The brief concurs with findings contained in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published last year.

The IPPC revealed that rapidly increasing climate change poses “a rising threat to mental health and psychosocial well-being.”

These are, according to its report, in form of emotional distress anxiety, depression, grief and suicidal behavior. “The impacts of climate change are increasingly being 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,” said Dr Maria Neira, the Director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at WHO. A survey conducted by WHO last year in 95 countries found that only nine have included mental health and psychosocial support in their national health and climate change plans.

There are nearly one billion people living with mental health conditions, yet in poor three to four do not have access to needed services.

Dr Nkirote said climate change presents a silent threat to public health “and may get worse as the climate warms.”

She opines that intense and frequent climate-related disasters increase poverty and distress in the affected communities.

These, she explained, trigger a rise in mental illnesses such as anxiety and mood-related disorders, including substance use disorders.

She said her Nairobi-based organization has set out to advocate for just climate regimes “with the hope to minimize impacts at individual and family levels.”

She said Tanzania, like most African countries, has not been spared and is currently experiencing severe weather extremes as a result of climate problems.

These include frequent flooding in Dar es Salaam and other parts of the country as well as droughts in other areas.

“Increased temperatures, prolonged droughts and erratic rainfall have a significant impact on public health and livelihoods,” she pointed out.

A report tabled by health experts showed that for every person who experiences physical injury as a result of climate change, 40 will experience psychological impacts.

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