Let’s talk about mental health for a bit
Climate change is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of our time. The consequences of which are endless, and we are getting ever more exposed to these -- the rising temperature, floods, increasing frequencies of tornadoes and hurricanes, droughts along with rivers and water bodies drying out. All of these have directly or indirectly affected us, humans, in more ways than we can imagine. Apart from the obvious physical abrasion, climate change has also managed to cause the mental health of people to deteriorate and causes mental disorders in relation to atypical climatic conditions.
Mental health itself is still a taboo in our country and climate change causing mental trauma is something almost nobody talks about. But there are severe cases, both long-term and short that arise due to the changes in lifestyle forced by climate changes.
The immediate effects
Following a natural disaster, the survivors often develop psychological trauma like anxiety or mood disorder. A good number ends up developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and we can often see the suicide rates often increase to almost double. Some of the immediate effects of a natural disaster include:
· Increased substance use
Women and children affected in climate prone areas
According to American Psychiatric Association, children are the most vulnerable to climate change when it comes to talking about mental health. They are more likely to have continued trauma-related symptoms after a disaster. This is common around areas where children are exposed to the effects of climate change directly as disruptions in routine, displacements and parental stress after a disaster all contribute to children’s distress.
Healthline claims that 25 to 50 per cent of people exposed to extreme weather disasters are at risk of an adverse mental health effect. That same report adds that up to 54 per cent of adults and 45 per cent of children experience depression after a natural disaster. Even though children are often very resilient and might overcome these over a certain period of time, but constant monitoring for long-term effects is important.
As per the research reports by the Imperial College London, even amidst the pandemic that’s taking place, young people in the UK reported significantly more stress about the inaction in climate change than Covid-19.
It was seen that the cyclone Mora in 2017 have caused the women to miss work and increased their chances of being depressed, especially among young women. The helplessness and insecurity felt after the cyclone also sometimes lead to self-harm, suicide ideation and suicide attempts.
How to tackle this issue
When a disaster takes place, we often see all sorts of medical aid are provided by the government and other relevant organizations. An article published in the Dhaka Tribune a few years back covered the issue of how almost nobody ever talks about taking care of their mental health or even assisting to their problems of such. One-stop crisis centres should be established in each sub-district or upazilla with in-house counselling services. At the same time, the disaster respondents should be aware of the mental health first aid kits. A tool developed in the UK to help healthcare workers use basic questions to screen for mental health issues and provide short term mental health relief. Building a sense of community among the survivors, like rebuilding and setting up infrastructures back how it was before the disaster took place, also proved to be one of the most effective when it comes to tackling this.
“Mental health may not be the most obvious climate change issue, but it is an important one not to forget,” says Meraz Mostafa who works at the International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh.