The climate change and the mental-health crisis are related

Climate Change and Aboriginal Mental Health: What We Can Do to Support a Mental Health Population? A Case Study of the Bahamas and Indigenous People’s Connecting Practices

Researchers want to unpick the many pathways by which climate change affects mental health, from trauma caused by hurricanes, floods, droughts and fires to ‘eco-anxiety ’— a chronic fear of environmental doom. Studies on methods that can help people prevent or manage these problems are also needed, although some work suggests that climate action and activism might help.

A medical student who witnessed a powerful Hurricane in the Bahamas is worried about the country’s future because of its susceptibility to sea-level rise. “Will there even be a Bahamas in maybe 20 to 30 years?” She says so.

Scientists say the topic has been neglected, and is now on the research agenda. I have seen a lot of research in the last five years. That has been very exciting for Alison Hwong, a professor of mental-health research at the University of California, San Francisco. The growing severity of heat, hurricanes and other impacts mean “it’s impossible to ignore”, she says.

Studies show that people with mental illness are at greater risk of dying in extreme heat, but it is still not known what we can do to stop it. One potential explanation is that some psychiatric drugs can interfere with the body’s response to heat5.

Feelings of eco- anxiety are not a sign of an underlying problem. One of the survey’s lead authors, Elizabeth Marks, a clinical Psychologist at the University of Bath, said that under immediate threat, it is a good idea to react by being anxious or fearful. It could even be harmful to think of these feelings as a disorder. “If we think of it as a diagnosable condition, that risks placing the blame on the individual as having an unhealthy response,” she says. Some people might benefit from psychological help if they become so impaired by their stress.

Researchers want to know whether culture and context affect climate anxiety. Many studies show that some Indigenous Australian communities have a connection to country through their cultural practices, such as hunting and gathering food. Climate change, as well as the sea levels, are threatening those practices. Tools used in health-care settings rarely consider the important cultural values that underpin Indigenous mental health, says Dickson, a darkinjung/ngarigo Australian Aboriginal.

Wamaitha, who along with Burrows is one of many people who shared their experiences with Connecting Climate Minds, has turned some of her concerns into action. She quit farming after failing to grow drought-resistant crops, but is now working at a non-governmental organization in Bura, which is focused on poverty relief. She earned enough money to get a degree in public health and is campaigning for global health on the internet’s largest network of professional networks. She is worried about whether to have children and she’s anxious for the future. She doesn’t believe she is a good place to bring kids in. “That is the saddest thing when I think about it.”

In order to help the environment and be a good doctor, she does small things such as walking, instead of driving. She says that she prays that wealthy countries and companies “will really, truly understand what is happening and not just say smooth words to try to pacify us in the moment”. She claims that they should help the small countries and the world at large.

It must also be realized that world leaders’ actions are cause of distress and action by governments is needed to soothe it.

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