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.

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Introducing… the InukSUK Program in Nunatsiavut, Labrador

For the past two years, I’ve been working with some wonderful folks in Nunatsiavut, Labrador to conceptualize, design, and develop an Inuit-led, Inuit-run community-based environment and health monitoring program. The InukSUK program is based on Inuit-identified priorities, ways of knowing, and cultural contexts, and unites cutting-edge app technology with traditional knowledge and storytelling. It’s an exciting new project, and we’re just in the early stages.

If you’re interested in learning more, click on the picture to read the full article, free online.

 

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Big thanks to all the amazing people with whom I get to work:

Dr. Sherilee Harper, Dr. Dan Gillis, Charlie Flowers, Inez Shiwak, Dr. Chris Furgal, Dr. James Ford, Michele Wood, Tom Sheldon, Anna Bunce, Alex Sawatzky, Oliver Cook, and the Rigolet Inuit Community Government. And of course, to all the amazing people in Rigolet who have lent their time, ideas, wisdom, expertise, and knowledge to the development of this app, and will make the program possible. Nakummek!

Coverage of Climate Change & Mental Health Research

Today, the Toronto Star published the second in a series of articles by Tyler Hamilton examining the many complex facets related to climate change and mental health, and featured our work in Nunatsiavut, Labrador.

Sometimes there are moments in life that change you, that alter you in ways that you can never really fully articulate… and that continue to teach you things years later. This research, and working with the Inuit communities in Nunatsiavut, Labrador, is one of the moments. Hearing the voices, experiences, and wisdom of the people with whom I work is humbling beyond belief. And dealing with, responding too, and hopefully mitigating the mental and emotional impacts of a rapidly changing climate and environment is something that continues, daily, to occupy my thoughts and drive my actions.

 

An excerpt:

Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, an assistant professor of indigenous studies at Cape Breton University, said the connection between mental health and climate change in Canada’s North is growing stronger and in “urgent” need of further investigation.

“There’s this dialogue that’s just waiting to leap out into the national and international consciousness,” she said. “In Canada, we have this active fishing culture, active farming culture, and large Arctic indigenous groups who are on the front lines of climate change, yet we have been really quiet on this topic.”

This is indeed a national dialogue that needs to happen in this country, and we are in a time in this country that I believe there is a willingness and and ability to listen and to act.

Thank you to Tyler Hamilton for his excellent reporting, and for his interest in this topic. His work is making sure this information and these voices get out, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

 

Climate Change & Inuit Mental Health

Today, an agreement is being tabled at COP21, calling on over 200 countries to sign on. As we continue these national and international dialogues, it is important to remember human impacts, including human suffering, distress, and psychological impacts.

I am pleased to share this new ebook feature through Adjacent Government that was just released to coincide with COP21. Click on the picture below to access the article.

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New Article on Inuit-Youth-Led Participatory Video & Adaptation

Just in time for the annual ArcticNet Annual Scientific conference in Vancouver, BC, Arctic has released our new article on using Inuit-youth-led participatory video as a strategy to enhance adaptive capacities and support known protective facts.

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TEDx Cape Breton Talks Released

The TEDx Cape Breton videos are now live! Happy to share a link to my talk on the impacts of climatic and environmental change on Inuit lives, livelihoods, and wellbeing in Nunatsiavut. Thanks to all who pulled this together!

Introducing the IlikKuset-Illingannet/Culture-Connect Program!

I am extremely excited and pleased to share a new video celebrating the wonderful youth and mentors of the IlikKuset-Illingannet/Culture-Connect Program, which ran in Rigolet, Makkovik, and Postville, Nunatsiavut, Labrador.

This progracommap-390x470-2m united 5 youth and 5 mentors in each community to learn culturally-based skills, such as trapping, fur preparation, wild meat cooking, snowshoe making, carving, music, and art. Youth spent approximately 4-5 weeks with each mentor learning these skills, with approximately 2,500 youth-adult mentor hours in total throughout the program.

This video was made during a youth gathering in Rigolet in March/April 2014 to celebrate the end of the program. We were lucky enough to work with Jordan Konek of Konek Productions, editor extraordinaire, to make this video. Jordan flew in from Iqaluit, and after experiencing weather delay after weather delay, finally arrived in Rigolet and helped our group put this together in 48 hours!

Special thanks to the youth and mentors of this program, without whom this wouldn’t be possible. Your passion, dedication, wisdom, knowledge, and skills are inspiring! Thank you to the Inuit Community Governments of Rigolet, Makkovik, and Postville for supporting this program, and to Inez Shiwak from the ‘My Word’: Storytelling & Digital Media Lab in Rigolet, Michele Wood in the Nunatsiavut Department of Health & Social Development, and Joanna Petrasek MacDonald from McGill University for all your help and support!

Many thanks to Health Canada’s Climate Change and Health Adaptation in Northern First Nations and Inuit Communities program, the Nasivvik Centre for Inuit Health and Changing Environments, IK-ADAPT, IMHACC, and the Canada Research Chair program for funding.