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Climate change and mental health
Public Hearings on the Political,
Economic, Legal, Gender and
Social Impacts of Climate Change
17 - 18 November 2009
Outline of presentation
• Importance of mental health as a human
development issue
• Review the evidence from other parts of the
world examining the impact of climate
change on mental health.
• Significance of maintaining population
mental health and well-being as a means of
achieving human development in the face of
climate change.
What is mental health?
• Mental health is central to
human development.
• WHO: “ a state of well-being
in which the individual
realizes his or her own
abilities, can cope with the
normal stresses of life, can
work productively and
fruitfully, and is able to make
a contribution to his or her
High stressors
Reduced access to social
capital/safety net
Obstetric risks
Violence and trauma
• 1 in 6 South Africans suffer from depression,
anxiety or substance use disorders.
• Approximately 1 in 3 pregnant or post-partum
Mental ill-health
mothers have depression in SA.
• 17% of children and adolescents in the WCape
have mental disorders.
Increased health expenditure
Social exclusion
Loss of employment
Reduced Productivity
Social drift
Impact of climate change on
mental well-being
weather events
Loss of housing
Unstable shelter
Lack of support services
Poor mental
Climate change
Long term
changes e.g.
Domestic violence
Child abuse
Job loss
Food insecurity
Displacement and migration
Water supply and sanitation
Developmental delay
Impact in South Africa
• Significant concerns for individual
and community mental health and
• Vulnerable populations, e.g. those
living in poverty, likely to be most
• Climate change will exacerbate
inequalities between rich and poor
• Impact upon existing development
• Negative effect on social networks
and community systems
Mental health and mitigating
impact of climate change
• Mental health crucial to
human development
• Psychological resilience
to effects of climate
• Adaptive capacity of
• Increased recognition of mental health as
as central to human development i.e.
mainstreaming of mental health issues.
• Increased investment in mental health
• Integration of mental health concerns into
climate change reduction programmes.
• Integration of mental health issues into
disaster response planning, including for
those with pre-existing conditions.
• Investment in research about climate
change and mental health and well-being.
• Including mental health indicators into
climate change surveillance systems.
A “make or break”
…the spirit that freed South Africa
must now rescue the planet…
Desmond Tutu
23rd October 2009