17 Nov 2022, 13:35
Carolina Kyllmann

Psychiatrists call for care prioritisation as climate change increases mental health conditions

Clean Energy Wire

The “Climate and Psyche” taskforce of the German Psychiatry and Psychotherapy Association (DGPPN) has called for better political support for mental health care through the climate crisis. In a report examining the direct effects of climate change on the psyche, the DGPPN found global warming not only can cause damage to people’s physical wellbeing but also negatively impact mental health. The report titled Berlin Declaration on Climate Change and Mental Health specifically found that rising temperatures and heat waves, as well as air pollution, are associated with deteriorating mental health and increased suicides, while natural disasters such as floods, fires and storms can cause post-traumatic stress disorder. At the same time, there is an increase in new syndromes such as solastalgia, an emotional or existential distress caused by environmental change, according to the report. Extreme weather events and climate change-related stress factors will lead to new and increased mental health needs and affect more people than before, which policymakers need to account for and prioritise, the authors say.

“Increasing temperatures, air pollution and natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, storms and fires pose enormous stresses," former DGPPN president Andreas Heinz said. “All of these - as well as new, completely justified fears about the future - are additional, massive stress and risk factors for mental health,” he added. So far, the health system is not prepared for this, the authors say. “We need an expanded spectrum of psychiatric-psychotherapeutic services and special outpatient clinics,” Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, DGPPN president, said. The report is addressed to psychiatric institutions and politicians. It is aimed at encouraging mental institutions to develop care concepts that meet the increasing and challenging needs for care and to edge on policymakers to come up with a framework that guarantees psychiatric care through the climate crisis, which is often interrupted alongside other health care after disaster events, the authors say.

Global temperatures have already increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels in 2022 through man-made climate change. Worries about global warming in Germany and most of Europe have been greatly spurred by several years of extreme heat and prolonged droughts. According to several surveys, global warming consistently has been high up on the list of concerns of people in Germany even as the coronavirus pandemic was disrupting social life and the economy and also while Russia's war on Ukraine is causing enormous damage to political and economic stability in Europe.

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