How the Mental Health Community Is Bracing for the Impact of Climate Change

By Andrea Marks: For More Info, Go Here…

When San Francisco broke heat records in 2017, with 106-degree temperatures in September, psychiatrist Robin Cooper didn’t hear until after the fact that one of her patients had been feeling dizzy and feverish. One day, he’d fainted in his poorly ventilated workspace. Emergency room doctors had surmised he’d had a virus. But Cooper warned him it could actually be a drug she’d prescribed him interacting with the extreme heat. Certain antipsychotic medications, often used in treating schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can impair the body’s ability to cool itself. This is one reason hospitalization rates among schizophrenic patients can spike with the temperature. “I told him, you need to know these medications put you at risk during heat waves,” Cooper says. “He now is armed with that knowledge the next time around.”

In the wakes of natural disasters, rates of PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and violence increase. Puerto Rico experienced a spike in domestic violence following Maria. Shelter populations doubled, with women and children sleeping in rooms filled with bunk beds, straining the staff’s capabilities. Rising temperatures have also correlated with increased rates of interpersonal violence and more ER visits for mental health concerns. A recent study suggested the strain on India’s agricultural sector caused by rising temperatures was responsible for 60,000 farmer suicides over the past three decades. A 2018 Stanford analysis predicted heat alone would contribute to an extra 14,000 suicides in the U.S. and Mexico by 2050.

Climate migration is a lesser-seen issue at this stage, but early research is not encouraging: A Harvard study showed elderly people displaced by Japan’s 2011 tsunami were more likely to show signs of dementia than those who were able to remain in their homes; Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm and living in Florida after Maria were substantially more likely to exhibit PTSD symptoms than those who were able to stay on the island.

Leave a Reply