A BURGEONING mental health crisis linked to climate change and resulting in suicides and thousands of deaths, is sweeping the globe and experts have warned action is needed to address it.
The final day of the World Forum on Climate Justice, at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), has heard we do not talk enough about the crisis, as it highlighted the devastating effect of climate change on women and girls.
Conference chair, Professor Tahseen Jafry, director of GCU’s Centre for Climate Justice, said: “We must take action to ensure that the conversation moves from infrastructure damage to looking at the social and human dimensions of this crisis.
“A mental-health crisis is burgeoning across the globe and yet we don’t talk about that crisis.
“It is playing out in terms of the suicide and death of many thousands of people but we don’t talk about this enough.
“From research that we are doing at the centre, we know that women and girls are bearing the brunt of this mental-health crisis.
“There is no doubt in my mind that people are experiencing climate change and climate injustices around the world.
“We have to move away from looking at the physical destruction that is happening around us and really look at the impact it is having on people’s mental and physical health. It is so important.
“This is about healing and rebuilding lives and finding ways forward.”
Some of the world’s biggest players on the world stage of climate change were brought together at the conference, including Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general; former Irish president and chair of the Elders Dr Mary Robinson; Kumi Naidoo, former secretary general of Amnesty International; and Princess Esméralda of Belgium, human rights campaigner and environmental activist.
Tahseen said she was deeply moved by one of the young women speakers, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, founder of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), who wept at the conference as she opened her heart about how women and girls are being killed simply trying to access water, and the mental-health impact that the climate crisis is having on them.
Jafry added: “This tragedy is about sexual exploitation, it is about rape, it is about being taken advantage of, particularly for women and girls who have to walk further and longer to try to get access to simple resources like water to help them live.”
Keynote speaker Robinson insisted that mental health was a “very real and increasing issue”.
She said: “We absolutely need to focus more on a people-centred climate justice approach and, within that, speak far more about the mental-health issues.
“I have listened to a lot of friends from small island states saying their mental health is falling apart because of the constant pressure of ‘will I have a future here?’, ‘what about my children?’, ‘are we going to have to move out of our home?’ “We spoke to women of the Global South and south of the United States, we asked each of them to talk about how they were coping. They opened up about how much they were having to think about their mental health.
“When you add to that those who have had to move to look for resources in drought or move because of the climate impacts and then being affected by sexual violence due to rape en route, that is even more tragic. We are hearing more stories along these lines.”