Mental Health & Our Changing Climate

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 9.48.56 AMIn June 2014, the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica published an important report, Beyond Storms & Drought: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change, which outlined the numerous direct and indirect pathways through which climate change and the resulting environmental alterations impact mental health.

Yesterday, an updated report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, was released and I am pleased to be an Editor and a Contributor on this report. The shared goal is to continue to increase awareness and understanding of the psychological impacts of climate change, and to continue dialogue on this important topic.

 

From the Introduction to the Report:

It is time to expand information and action on climate and health, including mental health. The health, economic, political, and environmental implications of climate change affect all of us. The tolls on our mental health are far reaching. They induce stress, depression, and anxiety; strain social and community relationships; and have been linked to increases in aggression, violence, and crime. Children and communities with few resources to deal with the impacts of climate change are those most impacted. To compound the issue, the psychological responses to climate change, such as conflict avoidance, fatalism, fear, helplessness, and resignation are growing. These responses are keeping us, and our nation, from properly addressing the core causes of and solutions for our changing climate, and from building and supporting psychological resiliency.

This report also highlights work done in partnership with Inuit from throughout Nunatsiavut.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 9.57.11 AM

The Mental Health Impacts of Ecological Grief in a Changing Climate

The ecologist (in a more than scientific sense) is someone who is touched by this loss in such a way as to mourn the toll of extinction instituted by human exemptionism and exceptionalism. She is bereft, and yet also understands that this feeling, her being touched by irrevocable loss, is itself a matter of realizing the existence of a sense of an ecological and ethical and political community with other species.
Mick Smith, 2013, p. 29

In 2016, I participated in the Advanced Study Institute, hosted by the Transcultural Psychiatry group at McGill University, led by Dr. Lawrence Kirmayer. The 2016 theme was Psychiatry for a Small Planet, and brought together an international group of researchers working on various aspects of mental health, nature, and the environment.

I was invited to speak on the ways in which ecological grief manifests within a changing climate in the North based on the Nunatsiavut-led research on climate change and mental health, and what it teaches us about our relationships with the more-than-human worlds.

Mourning Nature Release Date

mourning-natureIn May 2017, an edited collection that myself and Dr. Karen Landman from the University of Guelph have been working on for several years will be available through McGill-Queen’s University Press. This book was an absolute privilege and honour to work on, and the chapters within tell powerful, moving, and important stories about the ways in which we mourn nature, what this mourning can tell us about ourselves, and how this mourning can be mobilized for political and ethical change. Order here.

We are facing unprecedented environmental challenges, including global climate change, large-scale industrial development, rapidly increasing species extinction, ocean acidification, and deforestation – challenges that require new vocabularies and new ways to express grief and sorrow over the disappearance, degradation, and loss of nature.

Seeking to redress the silence around ecologically based anxiety in academic and public domains, and to extend the concepts of sadness, anger, and loss, Mourning Nature creates a lexicon for the recognition and expression of emotions related to environmental degradation. Exploring the ways in which grief is experienced in numerous contexts, this groundbreaking collection draws on classical, philosophical, artistic, and poetic elements to explain environmental melancholia. Understanding that it is not just how we mourn, but what we mourn that defines us, the authors introduce new perspectives on conservation, sustainability, and our relationships with nature.

An ecological elegy for a time of climatic and environmental upheaval, Mourning Nature challenges readers to turn devastating events into an opportunity for positive change.

Contributors include Glenn Albrecht (Murdoch University, retired); Jessica Marion Barr (Trent University); Sebastian Braun (University of North Dakota); Ashlee Cunsolo (Labrador Institute of Memorial University); Amanda Di Battista (York University); Franklin Ginn (University of Edinburgh); Bernie Krause (soundscape ecologist, author, and independent scholar); Lisa Kretz (University of Evansville); Karen Landman (University of Guelph); Patrick Lane (Poet); Andrew Mark (independent scholar); Nancy Menning (Ithaca College); John Charles Ryan (University of New England); Catriona Sandilands (York University); and Helen Whale (independent scholar).