The Heat Is Online

Climate Impacts Seen Driving Mental Illness

Mental illness rise linked to climate

The Border Mail (Au), Aug. 29, 2011

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.

As many as one in five people reported ''emotional injury, stress and despair'' in the wake of these events.

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''.

''While cyclones, drought, bushfires and floods are all a normal part of Australian life, there is no doubt our climate is changing,'' the report says.
''For instance, the intensity and frequency of bushfires is greater. This is a 'new normal', for which the past provides little guidance …
''Moreover, recent conditions are entirely consistent with the best scientific predictions: as the world warms so the weather becomes wilder, with big consequences for people's health and well-being.''

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.

It shows that one in 10 primary school children reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of cyclone Larry in 2006. More than one in 10 reported symptoms more than three months after the cyclone.

''There's really clear evidence around severe weather events,'' the executive director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute, Professor Ian Hickie, said.

''We're now more sophisticated in understanding the mental health effects and these effects are one of the major factors.

''What we have seriously underestimated is the effects on social cohesion. That is very hard to rebuild and they are critical to the mental health of an individual.''

Professor Hickie, who is launching the report today, said climate change and particularly severe weather events were likely to be a major factor influencing mental health in the future.

''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,'' he said.


Climate will make us depressed and anxious

Sydney Morning Herald (Au), August 29, 2011

If we don't start tackling climate change, Australians will be increasingly depressed, anxious or stressed  and more prone to substance abuse, a new report says.

The report, "A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change," draws on the work of mental health experts, community practitioners and survivors of natural disasters.

It argues that in the wake of extreme weather, such as cyclones and droughts, there is an increase in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.

p to one in five people were likely to suffer emotional injury, stress and despair.

It points to a recent study of rural NSW where, following the long drought, self-harm and suicide rose by up to eight per cent.

The report, commissioned by The Climate Institute and launched at the Brain and Mind Institute by Professor Ian Hickie on Monday, argues that if we don't start reversing pollution levels, extreme weather events are likely to increase in frequency and or intensity.

The Climate Institute CEO John Connor says not only did natural disasters cost taxpayers $9 billion last year but they are also damaging Australia's social fabric.

Dr Rob Grenfell, a general practitioner based in Natimuk in Victoria's West Wimmera region, has witnessed this first hand.

When the region was hit with severe drought and then heavy flooding early this year there was widespread "disharmony and pain", Dr Grenfell said.

"Many businesses have gone broke and so many people have left the community. Financial stress also brings on psychological distress and, sadly, in some cases, suicide, and episodes of domestic violence and alcohol and drug problems," Dr Grenfell said in a statement.

Dr Allan Dale, a long-time resident of Innisfail in far north Queensland, said he was concerned what the future would look like if steps weren't taken to tackle climate change.

He and his neighbours survived tropical cyclone Larry in 2007, only to be hit by Yasiin 2011.

"After Larry, I came to experience the effects of widespread and prolonged community-wide trauma for the first time," Dr Dale said.

"To then have a second whopper cyclone hit within five years has many of us in this part of the north thinking about what the future could look like if predictions about more intense cyclones prove correct."

A report by the CSIRO in 2007 projected the effects of various greenhouse gas emission scenarios for 2030, 2050 and 2070.

It said droughts were likely to become more frequent, fire danger was set to increase and tropical cyclones were likely to become more intense.