A climate and ecological crisis

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for international cooperation and urgent action by declaring a climate and ecological emergency.

The declaration is supported by a position statement published last week with recommendations for psychiatrists, the NHS, research institutes and Government to tackle the crisis and promote more sustainable clinical practices.

The College launched the statement and made national headlines with a poll which found the climate was a concern for 60% of people surveyed, and 84% believed it would be a concern in 10 years’ time.

The information about our new position statement on the RCPsych website includes infographics which show how the climate emergency and the ecological emergency the world faces are also health emergencies.

We’ve also interviewed a patient, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist in a special miniseries of podcasts, which focus on nature-based treatments for mental health conditions, and demonstrate how successful they can be.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:

“We have no choice but to join the voices of those who are calling for urgent action and declare a climate and ecological emergency to avert a health and mental health catastrophe.”

Around the world, climate change and environmental degradation are resulting in major repercussions on human health, including on mental health, and an unprecedented loss of biodiversity.

Human populations are already experiencing the health effects of more severe storms, floods, air pollution, wildfires and droughts, while food insecurities, extinction events and loss of habitats are drastically changing people’s lives especially in the global South.

The ramifications of climate and ecological emergencies are increasingly noticeable in the UK as well. Flooding which is associated with anxiety, depression and PTSD in survivors is the most common disaster in the UK. Due to climate change floods are increasing in frequency and severity.

Between 28,000-36,000 deaths a year in the UK, are due to air pollution exposure, while research points to the link between childhood exposure and mental illness in adulthood.

Dr Lisa Page, Joint Associate Registrar for sustainability at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“The knock-on effects of climate change and biodiversity loss will be felt on people’s mental health, we already see difficulties during heat waves.
“Many patients with serious mental illness experience worse physical and mental health on hotter days, polluted air has been linked to excess deaths and flood events with PTSD.
“If action isn’t taken the physical and psychological consequences will manifest in poorer health outcomes in the UK and overseas.”
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