Join us on this journey as we recap the highlights of COP28 in the UAE. The Climate Cares Centre team shed light on the profound interconnections between mental health and climate change, and the critical window for shifting from a vicious to a virtuous cycle, enabling people and the planet to thrive.
The 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) was a turning point for the centring of human health in climate negotiations. Political leaders began to acknowledge climate change as a health emergency, including at COP’s first ‘Health Day’, where more than 140 countries made a historic commitment to the UAE Declaration on Climate and Health, and one billion USD in finance commitments were pledged for climate and health.
As climate change continues to reshape our world, it’s not just landscapes that are transforming; the mental health of communities worldwide is also on the line. Over the past month, Connecting Climate Minds has been uniting global experts, researchers, and stakeholders in the diverse fields relevant to climate change and/or mental health from across the world. These discussions transcend borders, bringing together experts from seven regions of the world: Latin America and the Caribbean; Sub-Saharan Africa; Northern Africa and Western Asia; Central and South-Eastern Asia; Eastern and South-Eastern Asia; Oceania; and Europe and North America. The current field of mental health and climate change are disconnected and siloed, which reflects an urgent need to align research and action at the intersection of these two fields.
For many young men, opening up about mental health can feel daunting, with many feeling restricted by barriers such as stigma or fear. Those who identify as Black or minority ethnic are also more likely to experience racism, poverty and poorer educational outcomes than those who identify as White. These young people are also less likely to seek help through traditional mental health services.
To tackle this, the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) teamed up with The Mind Map, a Liverpool-based mental health organisation, and Golden Gloves Amateur Boxing Club in Toxteth, Liverpool, to form Fightin’ Thru. Fightin’ Thru is a boxing-themed campaign using innovative, creative and non-traditional mediums to raise awareness and encourage opening up about mental health in minoritised young men.
*CONTENT WARNING – eating disorders, mental health, loneliness*
Dr Lindsay Dewa is an Advanced Research Fellow in Mental Health at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London
We all experienced COVID-19. Being socially isolated from those we loved was really difficult for most of us, and had a real impact on our mental health and wellbeing such as loneliness. 75% of mental health disorders start before the age 24, and young people were already going through challenging transitions: from school into employment, college and university, and maybe new relationships. But then COVID-19 struck and these transitions were made all the more difficult.
By Dr Lindsay Dewa, Advanced Research Fellow, NIHR Imperial Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, IGHI
I have been aware of mental health from an early age. I just didn’t know it was called that at the time! I remember feeling deeply about things and wanting to make sure everyone was okay if they looked sad or down. It was then only natural that I leaned towards getting a degree in psychology – the science of the mind and behaviour. I then completed my MSc in research methods and forensic psychology. This naturally led me to embarking on a PhD studying sleep and mental health in prison populations.
I have spent the last 18 months encouraging effective international responses to COVID-19. I have learned that the coordinated and connected responses needed for responses to global threats are not easily achieved in today’s world. Yet unless nations can find ways to agree on the challenge, combine their responses and work willingly in synergy, success will be elusive.
Building the habit of working together is even more important when tackling climate change and its consequences. This particularly applies when exploring how changing climates affect people’s mental wellbeing.
There is indeed mounting evidence that climate change is affecting people’s minds as well as their bodies.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact poor mental health had on companies, individuals and national economies was staggering. The World Economic Forum has estimated $16 trillion lost to the economy by 2030.
Growing up in a Caribbean family that had experienced various traumas and challenges, I had some awareness of how mental illness impacted myself and my relatives. However, it wasn’t until I attended a masterclass last year on Black mental health hosted by BAME in Psychiatry & Psychology and the Centre of Pan African Thought that I realised the nuanced challenges faced by members of the Black community.
People with dementia are some of the most vulnerable, most isolated, and least able to adapt. COVID-19 has therefore made our work with Imperial College’s UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research and Technology Centre all the more urgent.
The Centre develops technologies for a smart ‘Healthy Home environment‘, supported by remote clinical monitoring, to improve the lives of people affected by dementia and further our understanding of this common disease.
The technology aims to make an impact in a number of ways, including early identification of infection, preventing falls, understanding the relationship between sleep and dementia symptoms, and predicting and managing agitation and difficult behaviours.
For young men who identify as black and minority ethnic (BME), mental health is not always an easy topic to discuss. Many feel restricted by fear, stigma and barriers inside and outside of the communities they are part of. For some, the available support isn’t appropriate for their needs.