The Royal College of Psychiatrists has declared a climate emergency, warning of a “mental health catastrophe”
The number of people visiting psychiatrists with concerns about the planet is on the rise, as the Royal College of Psychiatrists labels the phenomenon “eco-distress”.
In a new paper published today, the UK’s professional body for psychiatrists warned that climate change is “exacerbating existing mental health problems and leading to psychological distress and the onset of new episodes of mental illness”.
Even people not directly affected by the effects of climate change, such as flooding or displacement, can suffer from intense emotions caused by knowledge about extreme weather events happening elsewhere, the Royal College said.
“Witnessing such climatic events has been tied to a range of emotions which although not indicative of illness leave a psychological wake.
“The increased use of terminology such as ‘eco-distress’ (as well as ‘climate grief’, ‘ecological grief’ and ‘solastalgia’), reflects a growing recognition of this emerging issue,” the paper says.
Eco-distress “should not be pathologised and is not a mental disorder, and it should be considered a meaningful response to the climate and ecological emergencies,” it adds.
Psychiatrists see a spike in mental health issues during periods of hot weather, with several studies finding that heatwaves can be associated with a rise in hospital admissions and suicides.