B.C. Medical Journal article links climate change to serious mental health issues

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      By now, everyone but the most deluded deniers recognizes the connections between the severity of floods and hurricanes and rising greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

      But to date, there hasn't been nearly as much focus on the impact that climate change is having on some people's mental health.

      An article in this month's B.C. Medical Journal reports that this is becoming a serious issue.

      "Although often unseen, and less prominent in headlines, climate change and associated sequelae have both direct and indirect implications for mental health and psychosocial well-being," Dr. Elizabeth Wiley writes. "Specifically, climate change has been associated with numerous mental health conditions including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, grief, substance use disorders, and suicidal ideation among many others.

      "Older adults, children, those with pre-existing conditions, comorbidities, limited culturally safe supports, and/or lower socioeconomic status may be more vulnerable during emergencies."

      She also notes that "poor air quality, displacement and housing insecurity, food and water insecurity, and social isolation" have been exacerbated by temperature increases and altered weather across B.C. In addition, she states that this has had an impact on employment opportunities for some residents.

      And that, Wiley maintains, can all have an impact on a person's mental health.

      "Studies of similar experiences in Fort McMurray, Alberta, after wildfires forced total evacuation in 2016, suggest that psychosocial impacts from the fires were widespread and likely to persist following evacuation," she writes, citing an article in the CMAJ Open. "In the context of disasters, health care providers and first responders are often among those affected.

      "Despite growing appreciation of the mental health effects associated with climate change, measuring these effects has proven to be particularly challenging due to the problems of causation and attribution."

      Wiley include several footnotes to back up her points, citing the Lancet, the Lancet Countdown 2018 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers and the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

      In addition, she relied on the 2016 update of the Indicators of Climate Change for British Columbia report. It led her to state that that there's been an estimated "1.4 °C average temperature increase across British Columbia in the last century, with an increase of 1.3 to 2.7 °C projected by 2050".

      Wiley is a family medicine physician in Langford on Vancouver Island. She's also a Fulbright scholar who has writtten articles about climate and health for the World Medical Journal.

      Her article in the BCMJ reflects the views of the environmental health committee of Doctors of B.C., which is an advocacy group for the medical profession.

      A tagline underneath the article states that it was not peer-reviewed by the BCMJ editorial board and "does not necessarily reflect the opinion" of Doctors of B.C.