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Climate Change

Mental Health Another Casualty of Changing Climate

Jed Alegado is an incoming graduate student at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, Netherlands. Angeli Guadalupe is a medical doctor currently studying under the University of Tokyo's Graduate Program on Sustainability Science-Global Leadership Initiative. The two are Climate Trackers from the Adopt a Negotiator Project.

A young resident of Tacloban in the Philippines walks through some of the damage and debris left by the Typhoon Yolanda, Dec. 21, 2013. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

A young resident of Tacloban in the Philippines walks through some of the damage and debris left by the Typhoon Yolanda, Dec. 21, 2013. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

MANILA, Sep 8 2015 (IPS) - Jun* is in chains, tied to a post in the small house that resembles a fragile nipa hut. His brother did this to prevent him from hurting their neighbours or other strangers he meets when he’s in a ballistic mood. Jun has been like this for three years now, but since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines two years ago, his symptoms have worsened.

After the disaster, Jun lost his own house, his wife and his children. This psychological distress he went through triggered a relapse of his psychiatric illness. With no one else able to take care of him, Jun was taken by his brother to their family’s house.

Climate change’s health impacts are inequitably distributed with the most vulnerable sectors like the elderly, children and pregnant women having the least capacity to adapt.

But since his brother is working and the other people in the house are their old, sickly and frail parents, no one can control Jun during his manic episodes. He has not been able to maintain his medications because his family can’t afford them and the free supply at the local health center doesn’t come consistently. For these reasons, the best option left for Jun’s brother is to put him in chains.

Impacts on mental health

A few more cases like Jun exist in Tacloban City and most likely, in other areas of the Philippines as well – both urban and rural. Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Typhoon Haiyan) struck the country on Nov. 8, 2013. It was a Category 5 super-typhoon with wind speeds ranging from 250 to 315 kph, killing at least 6,300 people and costing PhP 89 billion in damages.

Due to extreme loss and survivor guilt, at least one in 10 people here suffers from depression. But two years after the disaster, some survivors remain unaware of available mental health services. Others complain of the poor quality of services and scant supply of medications. Many survivors who are more affluent choose to consult psychiatrists in other cities to avoid the stigma.

As with most disasters, physical rehabilitation is prioritised. This is understandable and perfectly rational, but the mental health of the victims should not be forgotten.

According to the World Health Organization’s report on the Global Burden of Disease, mental disorders follow cardiovascular diseases as the top cause of morbidity and mortality in terms of disability-adjusted life years or the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death.

Yet despite the staggering number of people affected, only an estimated 25 percent of them worldwide have access to mental health services. More than 40 percent of countries have no mental health policy and mental health comprises less than 1 percent of most countries’ total health expenditures.

Nowadays, climate change brings us more frequent and devastating natural disasters. In emergencies such as natural disasters, rates of mental disorders often double. Hence, attention to mental health should be doubled as well, especially in countries highly vulnerable to disasters such as the Philippines.

Being an archipelago and still a developing country, this is not surprising. According to the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security’s World Risk Index Report 2014, out of the 15 countries with the highest disaster risk worldwide, eight are island states, including the Philippines.

Ensuring health impacts in the negotiation text

Health advocates are quick to respond to this alarming issue. Groups led by the International Federation of Medical Students (IFMS) are ensuring that the issue of health and its impacts to climate change are included in the climate negotiating text.

Beginning from the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru last year which continued in Geneva last February, the group has been advocating for health to be back at the center of negotiations and in effect ensuring that parties will forge a strong climate agreement in Paris on December.

Last week’s Bonn climate negotiations – one of the few remaining negotiation days before the actual COP in December – proved to be an exercise in futility as negotiators keep dodging on the issue of a loss and damage mechanism, which, according to health advocates, is crucial for helping people affected by the health-related impacts of climate change.

According to IFMS, “there is a growing involvement of member states to include health in the negotiating text. As a group, we want to ensure that health is included in all parts of the negotiating document – preamble, research, capacity building, adaptation and finance.”

Indeed, the impacts of climate change go beyond environment, food security, land rights and even indigenous peoples’ rights. More importantly, climate change has both direct and indirect effects on health. Climate change’s health impacts are inequitably distributed with the most vulnerable sectors like the elderly, children and pregnant women having the least capacity to adapt.

Parties to the UNFCCC must see this alarming issue towards forging a fair and binding climate deal in December which will limit keep global warming below 2 degrees C and ensure adaptation mechanisms to the most vulnerable nations.

In the future, it is foreseen that wars will be fought over water not oil. Disasters nowadays may give us a glimpse of the worst to come when the staggering impacts climate change worsen and affect us in ways beyond what we can handle.

Yet, with the rapid turn of extreme weather events, what we are doing is not just for future generations. It is for us, who are living now on this planet. We are going to be the victims if we do not take responsibility as much as we can, as soon as we can.

*Name has been changed to protect his identity.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

 
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  • Zosha123

    What irresponsible garbage copy and paste criminal exaggeration!

    Science has never said; “proven” for a CO2 Armageddon and not one IPCC warning says; “will be” or “inevitable” or “certain” and the last 34 years of climate action failure and global denial proves liberals exaggerated vague science just as an excuse to blame conservatives.

    Is this how you want your kids remembering you?

    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.

  • imongo

    We are accustomed to various special interest groups cooking the books to promote their interests in Washington. We don’t expect the science establishment to be cooking the science, but that is what is happening. The arrogance and irresponsibility exhibited by the science establishment is quite amazing. It will take a while for the public to adjust to the idea that organized science is as corrupt as the trial lawyers or the teachers’ union. The global warming scare is nothing but an attempt at wealth redistribution.

  • Dr Tim Ball-@pplonia

    I would like to tell you of my latest book and documentary.

    ‘The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science’.
    My latest documentary and video of my presentation.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPzpPXuASY8
    My website is
    Thank you.
    Tim

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPzpPXuASY8
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sO08Hhjes_0
    http://www.drtimball.com

    Debate between Dr Tim Ball and Elizabeth May
    Scroll down to Ian Jessop part 1
    http://www.cfax1070.com/Podcasts

  • CB

    Look at all the fossil prostitutes in the comments section! …some of them professionals!

    Let’s fix that:

    “Data from NASA’s Grace satellites show that the land ice sheets in both Antarctica and Greenland are losing mass.”

    (NASA Global Climate Change, “Vital Signs of the Planet: Land Ice”)

  • Icarus62

    Mendacious nonsense.

  • Icarus62

    You’re just upset that the global warming denial scam isn’t gaining much traction any more.

  • John from London

    Tim, when you say “The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science”, I assume that you’re talking about Denier “science” and the propaganda of morally bankrupt shills for the fossil fuel industry. For they certainly are corrupt, criminal, treasonous against Humanity and the World.

    If that’s not what you mean then you’re just an ass who, if Hell exists, will be going there for a spot of Timball Warming.

  • John from London

    imongo, I assume that by “the science establishment” you mean that small but well established set of Denier “scientists”, and, by “organized science”, you mean Denier “science” produced via fossil fuel patronage and organisation, and, by “the global warming scare” you mean the headless-chicken babble from desperate wallet-clutching Deniers about how it’ll cost so much to make the urgent and crucial changes required to leave us with a liveable planet .

    I assume that because any other interpretation would mean that you’re spouting utter nonsense.

if i did it oj simpson summary