Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Climate change leads to psychiatric illness: WHO

Sify.com: Establishing a link between climate change and mental health, the World Health Organisation has said extreme weather conditions like floods, droughts and natural calamities can lead to psychiatric illnesses. "Psychosocial illnesses are a part of the various health issues associated with climate change," Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Deputy Regional Director, WHO, said.

Anticipating that severe flooding may become more frequent due to global warming, a WHO report said that independent studies in cyclone-affected Orissa and a flooded town in England has shown that post-traumatic stress disorder syndromes of different severity in affected people even after an year.

Another area is the mental health impact of drought, a likely sequence of climate change. Drought affected farmers can undergo severe mental agony due to financial hardship from increased debt, it said. It is difficult for farmers to plan for crops, stocking, improvements, breeding and succession. This affects other businesses, limiting their ability to expand and employ staff. Drought affects family relationships also leading to stress, worry and an increase in the rate of suicides. It can also lead to isolation and increased workload as fewer workers take on more work, partners move off the farm for additional income or for school needs and families can no longer afford social support. The phenomena of farmers’ suicides in India is a typical example of consequences of climatic vagaries in poor, predominantly agrarian economies," the report said.

The report goes on to say that in general population, the 12-month prevalence rate of mild and moderate common mental disorders is on an average of about 10 per cent in countries across the world. However, this rate is likely to rise possibly to 20 per cent after exposure to severe trauma and resource loss.

A 2007 flood in Tobasco, Mexico, shot by Via Mendez Anegada, Wikimedia Commons

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