Climate psychology is an area which has received very little research attention so far, and the aim of my new role at the Centre for Climate Justice is to change that. In my programme of research I will start to tackle some of the most critical unanswered questions through the lens of climate justice.
Shortly after my joining the Centre for Climate Justice we held an event designed to bring together a new network of academics, practitioners, interested members of the public, policymakers and staff of NGOs to start the conversation on mental health issues within the context of climate change.
The event, funded by the National Centre for Resilience, took place at the Glasgow Caledonian University on 19 March 2019. On the same day we launched the pioneering new stream of climate psychology research happening here at the Centre for Climate Justice.
The final report Climate Change, Climate Justice and Mental Health Knowledge Exchange (PDF) was published in April 2019.
Attendees were representatives from all kinds of different organisations: NGOs, community groups, academic institutions, as well as local and national Government. A series of presentations formed the first part of the day, delivered by speakers from a range of backgrounds.
I gave an overview of what is known – so far – about climate change related mental health issues from a climate psychology and neuropsychological perspective, such as the direct impacts to mental health from being involved in a disaster event, as well as the indirect impacts – due to living through this era of uncertainty and threat – which everyone may be vulnerable to.
Paul Hendy from the Scottish Flood Forum provided a rousing presentation on the post-flood experiences of the communities he’s worked with within the UK: noting that it is the recovery period, and not the event itself, which is often perceived as the most traumatic.
Gladys Ngwira, a registered mental health nurse within NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, provided a snapshot of just some of the climate justice and mental health issues faced by women in Malawi, with arresting video footage demonstrating some of the injustices they face.
Russell Jones, from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, gave a fascinating presentation on designing places for better mental health, noting that it is the social characteristics of the places we inhabit – rather than their physical characteristics – which impact our wellbeing to the greatest extent.
Perhaps the most valuable element was the interactive workshop, where all attendees put their heads together to answer some of the tough initial questions which we are facing within this area of research. Questions asked included who is likely to be affected the most by climate change in the context of mental health, how do we bridge the knowledge gap, and how do we build resilience – to name but a few!
At the foot of this blog post you can see some tweets with pictures taken on the day.
It’s clear that there is a lot we just don’t know, and most of what we need to discover could have important public health implications.
We’ll be addressing a lot more of these questions at the World Forum on Climate Justice, which takes place in Glasgow in June 2019. If you can’t make it along, you can follow the discussions on Twitter
Whether you are a professional within this field or a curious layperson, if you have interests in climate change, climate justice and/or mental health then head to Twitter @harriet_ingle and follow me to keep updated with comments on current events and news from a climate psychology perspective. There might even be the odd dog picture in there for good measure!