Crisis in B.C. will contribute to climate mental health woes: expert
TORONTO -- The crisis in B.C. will contribute to the ongoing mental health issues surrounding the anxiety and depression some people have in response to climate change and extreme weather events tied to it, according to Dr. Husein Moloo, the interim director of planetary health at the University of Ottawa.
“It’s a really difficult situation out in B.C. right now, the people out in B.C. have had to face…fire, there’s been drought, there’s been heat domes and now flooding – that is difficult,” Moloo said on CTV News Channel on Saturday.
The terms eco-anxiety, environmental grief and solastalgia – meaning a feeling of homesickness when home changes around you – have become more mainstream as climate change has moved front and centre in global headlines, but the concept of mental health being tied to climate change is not new.
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In 2013, Memorial University professor Ashlee Cunsolo released a paper on the Inuit in the Labrador community of Rigolet, where people spoke of the sorrow they felt about being cut off from places they’d visited for generations because of vanishing sea ice.
A 2019 report prepared by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick was published on climate change affecting the mental health of the people in the province after flooding and ice storms.
A 2021 report from the British Medical Journal explored the growing levels of “eco-anxiety” in young people, which they called “significant and potentially damaging.”
“It’s a complicated issue, I think what I would say for people in B.C., these type of events they’ve been going through on a regular basis now – that has a definite affect on mental health, and indirectly, the rest of us Canadians who are looking at this,” Moloo said. “We talk about things now, the nomenclature has become a little bit more widespread in terms of eco-anxiety [and] ecological despair.”
Moloo said the crisis in B.C. can affect anyone, not just those living through it.
“All of that it affects you, it affects the people around you – it doesn’t matter what age group you look at,” he said, using the examples of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey in the U.S. “A lot of people who went through that had symptoms of post traumatic stress after.”
When asked about how to respond to the issue of eco-anxiety and mental health struggles tied to climate change, Moloo said the response has to be “from all different levels” of government and society.
“There is different tiers to the response here, there is the government response, in terms of policy to support especially people who are marginalized and those of lower socio-economic status who are more vulnerable,” he said. “They are disproportionately affected not only in Canada but worldwide by this.”