The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States: And Why the U.S. Mental Health Care System is Not Adequately Prepared

A report on how global warming impacts public mental health and the mental health care system that includes communications, behavior change and public education recommendations.

The authors acknowledge how challenging it is to communicate about climate change in a way that imparts a sufficient sense of urgency and motivates people to take action.  The report, which includes recommendations from an interdisciplinary forum on the topic of mental health and global warming, explores the psychological impacts and emotional aspects of climate impacts through a social justice frame and calls for changes in the mental health field.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Climate change is expected to increase the incidence of mental and social disorders, including depression and anxiety, post traumatic stress, substance abuse, suicides, and violence.
 
  • Vulnerable populations include children, the poor, the elderly, and those with existing mental health disorders (i.e. about half of the American public).
 
  • The U.S. mental health care system is not prepared to handle the projected wide-spread psychological stresses of climate impacts.
 
  • Better emergency management and disaster response training is needed.
 
  • In order for the public to adopt climate solutions and support strong policies, they need to first understand the scale of the threat.
 
  • The mental health community can help educate the public about the psychological impacts of climate change and communicate the health benefits of reducing carbon emissions.
 
  • Health professionals can help shape messaging about the psychological implications of climate change and become a strong public voice for protecting the public, especially vulnerable populations.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user apdk

Publication Date: 
2012
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