Mental health support must be included in national responses to climate change, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday at the Stockholm+50 environmental summit.
Climate change poses serious risks to people's mental health and well-being, the UN agency said in a new policy brief, which concurs with a report published in February by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The IPCC study revealed that rapidly increasing climate change is a rising threat to mental health and psychosocial well-being, from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behaviour.
"The impacts of climate change are increasingly becoming 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, director of the WHO's Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health.
The mental health impacts of climate change are unequally distributed, with certain groups disproportionately affected depending on factors such as socioeconomic status, gender and age, according to the WHO brief.
However, the UN agency said it was clear that climate change affects many of the social determinants that already are leading to massive mental health burdens globally.
Out of 95 countries surveyed last year, only nine included mental health and psychosocial support in their national health and climate change plans.
"The impact of climate change is compounding the already extremely challenging situation for mental health and mental health services globally. Nearly one billion people are living with mental health conditions. In low and middle-income countries, three out four do not have access to needed services," said Dévora Kestel, director of the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
"By ramping up mental health and psychosocial support within disaster risk reduction and climate action, countries can do more to help protect those most at risk," she added.
The WHO urged the governments to integrate climate considerations with mental health programmes, merge mental health support with climate action, and build upon their global commitments.
Authorities should also develop community-based approaches to reduce vulnerabilities, and close the large funding gap that currently exists for mental health and psychosocial support, it said.
Among the pioneering countries cited in the WHO report is The Philippines, which rebuilt and improved its mental health services after super typhoon Haiyan in 2013, reportedly one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.
India also scaled up disaster risk reduction while at the same time preparing cities to respond to climate risks and address mental health and psychosocial needs.
Source: United News of Bangladesh