Sustainability, Climate Change and Mental Health

On the 22nd October, RCPsych Wales held its first Sustainability, Climate Change and Mental Health Conference. The conference was held with the support of BJPsych Bulletin and was chaired by Delyth Jewell MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Climate Change, Energy and Transport.

On this page you'll find presentations and resources for the day, whilst we'll shortly be adding an section on questions and answers from the presentations.

The full programme is available to download.

Morning Session

BJPsych Bulletin

The BJPsych Bulletin is an open access, peer reviewed journal. In partnering with RCPsych Wales, the journal is promoting a special edition on Climate and Mental Health, as well as the Green Psychiatry collection.

BJPsych bulletin cover element from volume 45 issue 4

Delyth Jewell MS

Delyth Jewell was born in Caerphilly, grew up in Ystrad Mynach, and went to school in Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni in Bargoed, before going on to study in the University of Oxford, where she graduated with a Degree in English Language and Literature and a Masters in Celtic Studies.

After graduating from university, Delyth worked as a researcher and speechwriter for the Plaid Cymru Members of Parliament in Westminster under the leadership of Elfyn Llwyd MP. In 2014, she won the Researcher of the Year Award for her work in paving the way for legislation on stalking and domestic violence. She later worked for Citizens’ Advice and Action Aid.

In 2019, Delyth was sworn in as the Plaid Cymru Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, following the death of Steffan Lewis, and she was named her party’s spokesperson on Brexit and External Affairs. In 2021, Delyth was re-elected as a Member of the Senedd for South Wales East, and has been appointed her party’s spokesperson on climate change, transport and energy.

Prof Alka Ahuja MBE, Clinical Lead at TEC Cymru

Gemma Johns, Research Lead at TEC Cymru

NHS Wales turned digital 18-months ago. Using a single platform to deliver patient care, over a quarter of a million video consultations (VC) have now been successfully conducted across Wales. From this experience, 52,000 NHS patients and clinicians have provided user feedback from a range of interviews, focus groups and live online feedback.

This data has demonstrated that there is no clear digital divide in Wales regarding the uptake and value of VC based on user demographic, geographic or clinical status. Rather, the benefits of VC outweigh the challenges for patients, families, clinicians and the NHS. Benefits such as saved travel in terms of miles and co2 emissions, saved money in terms of patient, clinician and NHS cost and expenses, and saved time off school and work have all led to the long-term and sustainable ‘want’ and ‘need’ for VC in Wales.

In addition, the benefit to work from home (WFH) has presented a new opportunity to NHS staff, with additional benefits of choice, preference, flexibility and freedom for themselves and their patients. Taking this on board, in June 2021, an all-Wales WFH study was conducted with NHS, social care and third sector staff to discuss the pros and cons of WFH. The study was designed as a series of virtual workshops to codesign an ‘Ideal WFH Model for Wales’ (with 500+ participants). Based on this, 15 policy recommendations were initially developed and presented to the Welsh Government. The recommendations then went through a peer-review process, with an additional 435 Welsh members, and re-written. These new recommendations are now under final inspection, and will be discussed further in virtual round table events coming soon. This session will present the findings of this work, and an opportunity to discuss the recommendations, and help feed into Welsh policy.

Ian Thomas from Welcome to our Woods

For the past 8 years, Ian has worked for 'Welcome to our Woods’, which is a not for profit organisation, working to connect people with woodlands and outdoor areas where they live. The organisation manages natural resources with local people focusing on health, well-being and creating sustainable social enterprises to achieve a more positive future for the Upper Rhondda Fawr, South Wales. 

Creating locally owned climate change mitigation projects like small scale hydro electric or improved forest management areas. Ian believes can generate a greater sense of hope for the future in our community.  

The work of Welcome to our Woods is demonstrating that putting local people in the driving seat in terms of managing the local public land around their town, can deliver solutions not possible through other more standard public land management methods. It also brings a better sense of wellbeing and place (Cynefin) to the people involved.

Poppy Stowell-Evans

The Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales (YCA) is a group of 15 young people from across Wales who are passionate Climate Activists fighting for Climate Justice. Youth Climate Ambassadors for Wales (YCA) is facilitated by Size of Wales and the Welsh Centre for International Affairs.  

Poppy is 17 and she’s in her last year of sixth form. She is a climate and social justice activist and she works with a range of community and international projects to promote the importance of creating a more sustainable and fair world.  

Poppy will discuss in detail the work of Youth Climate Action Wales. Poppy will then give an overview of the reality of the climate crisis and how it is already impacting us in Wales and across the world. Poppy will then give detail on how this is impacting young people from personal experiences to the IPCC report which highlighted that 50% of young people have climate anxiety and will then use this as an incentive to call for action. 

Kathryn will highlight some of the work that health staff have been involved in in designing and implementing how services can work more sustainably.

Haf Elgar

Haf is the Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru. She was previously the organisation's Campaigner in Wales, and has been with Friends of the Earth since 2008.

In recent years she’s led a team who have successfully campaigned for a fossil free Wales with no new opencast coal mining or fracking, and support a growing network of grassroots groups across Wales. She worked in coalition to stop the M4 relief road, influenced climate legislation and the ground-breaking Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, and campaigns on a number of climate justice issues including air pollution and fuel poverty.

Haf is also Vice Chair of Healthy Air Cymru, sits on both the Climate Cymru and Fuel Poverty Coalition steering groups and was previously Chair of Stop Climate Chaos Cymru.

Healthy Air Cymru is a coalition of organisations who share a vision of a cleaner greener Wales, and work together to raise awareness of air pollution and campaign for the changes needed to clean our air – for the sake of people and the planet. This presentation will highlight air pollution as a climate justice issue, as well as its physical and mental health impacts.

Afternoon Session

Ollie John, Manager of the Royal College of Psychiatrists Wales

In addressing the climate and ecological emergency, RCPsych Wales are calling for Welsh Government to ensure:

  • Any decision taken on climate change, energy and transport must consider and declare the positive and negative mental health implications.
  • Welsh Government should explore making well-being the principal aim of its budget, in order to meet the needs of the people of Wales.

Lleucu Siencyn, Chief Executive, Literature Wales

Literature Wales is the national company for the development of literature, with a vision where literature empowers, improves and brightens lives.

Wales’ literature is deeply embedded in the landscape. From the hustle of Tiger Bay to the highest peaks of Eryri, our land is more than a background setting, it’s a character. Poets have been composing whilst working the land for centuries, our place names are intertwined with old legends and tales. Literature and language are in the land around us.

Literature Wales acknowledges and recognises the climate emergency and its devastating impact on our world and the lives of people, with the poorest hardest hit. We want to act where we can, to mitigate against further escalation of the crisis and raise awareness through our work. We cannot align our work with the Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 without recognising the destruction of our environment and climate emergency in everything we do. We will work with partners and our audiences to aim towards a greener, fairer, and more prosperous Wales.

Abbie and Ebony from Brynteg School, and Ansh from The Cathedral School

Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Cymru are a national digital service. TEC Cymru have an active Young Person Advisory Group consisting of young people living across Wales, and range between 14-18 years old. One of the keen interests with this young advisory group is the environment, and how digital solutions can support and protect it.

This session will present two pieces of work conducted by the TEC Cymru young advisory group on environmental impacts of COVID-19. First will be a pre-recorded discussion by some of the members of the young advisory group. The second part will present a video developed early in the pandemic by young people across Wales (ranging from 2 years to 23 years old).

Dr Cate Bailey will introduce and chair a session of speakers who recently contributed to the BJPsych Bulletin special issue on Climate and Mental Health, this is followed by a panel discussion.

Eco-anxiety isn’t an illness – Anouchka Grose, Writer and Psychoanalyst

Unequal effects of climate change and pre-existing inequalities on the mental health of global populations – Dr Shuo Zhang, Specialist Registrar in Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Honorary Research Associate, King’s College London

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists

Adrian will outline the work the College is undertaking into sustainability.

In May 2021, the College issued a report and position statement on the climate and ecological emergency. Adrian will highlight progress on pledges and recommendations, and further outline how mental health services can be part of the solution.

Additional resources

The College's position on Sustainability

A Climate and Ecological Emergency. The disruption to life posed by climate and ecological degradation is a crisis which presents an unprecedented threat to human health. 

The College sets out

  • what we have pledged to do
  • our recommendations for action by others
  • how the climate crisis and ecological crisis each are contributing to a mental health emergency.

The full statement also provides in more detail

  • information about the psychological dimensions to the crisis
  • ways in which mental health services can form part of the solution.