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Climate Change Adversely Affects Mentally Ill

Climate change receives a lot of press, but most of this coverage is on the dangers we face in light of a threatened environment. One element that tends to be overlooked is the health consequences of climate change – most notably mental health.

A recent post in the Science Daily notes that leading mental health researchers warn that mental health consequences will be significant, but likely overlooked at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.

These consequences were examined by Dr. Lisa Page and Dr. Louise Howard from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London. Both experts predict the effects of climate change will be felt most by those who with pre-existing serious mental illness. At the same time, there is likely to be an increase in the overall burden of mental disorders worldwide.

Dr. Page commented: “Climate change is assuming centre stage with the upcoming UN conference in Copenhagen. While delegates will discuss the effects of climate change and possible responses by the international governments, we fear that the effects of climate change on mental health will be largely ignored, posing a tremendous risk to the mental health of millions of people in the not-too-distant future.”

Climate change is likely to impact mental health in a number of ways, including natural disasters which have shown to produce adverse psychiatric outcomes in the past that include PTSD, major depression and somatoform disorders; those with chronic mental illness are often overlooked in the aftermath of a disaster in favor of those dealing with trauma; and the knowledge of man-made climate change could in itself have adverse effects on individual psychological well-being.

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