October, 5, 2009, Vancouver, BC — The Resilient People + Climate Change Conference reports that the Green Party of BC drafted a policy on the psychological and social impacts of climate change that was passed yesterday at its monthly policy meeting.
It is fitting that just two weeks before the gathering of leading experts to explore the psychological and social impacts of climate change that a political party has taken these potential impacts seriously. We believe the Green Party of BC policy maps to the latest disturbing findings that climate change is going to have psychological and social impacts, and that we must begin now to address a series of interrelated and challenging issues — in education, community adaptation, and social services — noted in the policy statement below.
The Green Party of BC’s policy stems from recent work on the topic by writer and journalist Sanjay Khanna, who is co-convening the Resilient People + Climate Change Conference with cultural mythologist Michael Littrell. The policy was informed significantly by a draft document called “NGO Working Group on the Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being: Guidelines for Action.” The contents of this latter document will be communicated to the United Nations, the European Union, and the U.S. presidential administration. Two Resilient People + Climate Change speakers, Dr. Glenn Albrecht and Dr. Inka Weissbecker, are among the co-authors of the NGO document referenced by the Green Party of BC.
BC Greens believe that British Columbians will find it more difficult to contribute constructive ideas and programs addressing the challenge of climate change adaptation and mitigation, or to respond proactively as climate change starts to affect mental health and psychosocial well-being. Based on a growing body of research on the mental health and psychosocial impacts of climate change, we believe our healthcare, social and education systems should help people prepare for potential mental health and psychosocial impacts induced by climate change:
GPBC would implement a full range of direct and supportive programs– as part of a fully-costed, preventive health care plan — to help mitigate the impact of climate change on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of British Columbians. These may include:
- Both specialized and non-specialized staff must receive training in mental health and psychosocial care (Lancet Global Mental Health Group, 2007). Local professionals (e.g. school teachers, nurses, doctors, and first responders) must be trained in the basic principles of psychological first aid and in providing referrals to specialized staff if necessary.
- K – 12 education should include modules in social studies on the potential impacts of climate change and response strategies. The intent is to familiarize children with the potential problems, and empower them to overcome fear, or deal with it in a positive way.
- In high-risk areas, provide community-based training in the form of disaster response, first aid, urban search and rescue, and disaster mental health using existing community training models used successfully in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere (Simpson, 2000; Simpson & Strang, 2004, World Cares Center, 2008). From grade 8 onwards, for example, students should be taught disaster first aid in a progressive fashion, so that they are better able to assist their communities should climate-related disasters increase in severity and frequency. Individuals who are able to function, contribute to community recovery, and maintain their role during stress often cope better and experience less disability following a stressful event (Caplan, 1975)
- Building resilient communities involves capacity-building, strengthening existing structures, creating new or reinforcing social networks and recognizing the value of local and Indigenous community knowledge and perspectives, as well as increasing the availability of psychosocial resources and services (World Health Organization, 2008c). Existing social services in communities at high risk should inventory the strengths of specific social groups as well as talents and skills within the community that could contribute to mitigation, and alleviation of the psychosocial impacts of climate change.
Caplan, G. (1975). Support Systems in Times of War, The Individual and Community in Emergencies: Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
Lancet Global Mental Health Group (2007). Scale up services for mental disorders: A call to action. Global Mental Health Lancet Series 6, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61242-2.
Simpson, D. (2000). Non-Institutional Sources of Assistance Following a Disaster: Potential Triage and Treatment Capabilities of Neighborhood-based Organizations. Journal of Pre-Hospital and Disaster Medicine, 15(4), 199-206.
Simpson, D. M., & Strang, W. (2004). Volunteerism, Disasters and Homeland Security: The AmeriCorps* National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and Community Preparedness. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, 1(4), Article 404.
World Cares Center (2008). http://worldcares.org/about/
World Health Organization (2008c). Scaling up care for mental, neurological and substance use disorders. Mental Health Gap Action Program. Geneva, Switzerland.