Climate change threatens mental health

Rocketship’s David Gilchrist found that a 2022 WHO report offers insights for Rocketship Pacific. The report, the Mental health and Climate Change: Policy Brief has recognised the growing threat of the consequences of climate change for the low and middle income countries of the Pacific, and what it sees as the emerging demands on health workforce capacity and health workforce training.

The WHO report recognises climate change is a growing global crisis. The brief says its scale is already massive, and with inaction it continues to grow.

The report is a reminder that certain groups, including Pacific Island countries, are disproportionately at risk from the impact of climate change and climate change-related hazards, including people with pre-existing mental health conditions.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends five key approaches, to address the consequences of climate change. Of those key approaches, Rocketship is mindful of the call by WHO to Integrate climate change considerations programmes for mental health, including Mental Health and Psychologic Support.

Even without effects of climate change, the situation for mental health globally is already challenging. In many countries large gaps exist between mental health needs and the services and systems available to address them. In fact, most people with mental disorders do not receive any care. This is particularly true in low- and middle-income countries where fewer than 20% report receiving adequate services.

Of interest to Rocketship is the recommendation that promoted eveloping the capacity of general health-care workers to understand the mental health and psychosocial impacts of climate change to provide basic psychosocial support to those affected.

The policy brief recommended: –

  • Training health managers on the effective integration of MPHSS into their climate change and health plans and strategies. 
  • Developing and implementing organisational approaches to prevent and manage problems of mental health and psychosocial well-being among staff and volunteers. 

Organisational capacity development

  • Developing capacity to provide basic mental health care for people living with mental, neurological and substance use (MNS) conditions at every health facility. 
  • Building referral pathways among mental health providers, general health-care providers, community-based support, and other services.

The Policy brief said, “Though more research is needed on the impact of climate activism on mental health and well-being, engaging in action to address climate change itself is crucial.”

In an observation that could point to a future direction for Rocketship Pacific, the brief said that “given the human impacts of climate change, mental health and psychosocial well-being need to be one of the main focuses of climate action. It argued that this is the only way to achieve justice for all those who are affected.


Video music – Maarten Schellekens, Autumn leaves