Projects within the theme

Global crisis - Climate change

Theme leaders: Jura Augustinavicius & Rachel Williamson
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1. Climate change and mental health network

 

Project group

The network is open to researchers and clinicians with an interest/expertise in the intersection of climate change and mental health. We are particularly interested in expanding the network to include members from underrepresented (i.e., non-Western) geographical areas. To get involved or learn more, please contact Rachel Williamson or Jura Augustinavicius.

Current network members

Rachel Williamson (PI), University of Montana, US

Jura Augustinavicius, McGill University, Canada

Phoebe Bean, University of Montana, US

Gary Belkin, Harvard, US

Fiona Charlson, University of Queensland, Australia

Susan Clayton, Wooster College, US

Ashlee Cunsolo, Memorial University, Canada

Christy Denckla, Harvard, US

Selina Hardt, University of Montana, US/Germany

Emma Lawrance, Imperial College London, UK

Sarah Lowe, Yale School of Public Health, US

Alessandro Massazza, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK

Kelton Minor, Columbia University, Data Science Institute

Jessica Newberry, Imperial College London, UK

Nick Obradovich, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, US

Meaghan O'Donnell, University of Melbourne, Australia

Miranda Olff, Amsterdam UMC, Netherlands

Larry Palinkas USC, US

Martin Paulus, Laureate Institute, US

Ans Vercammen, University of Queensland, Australia

Francis Vergunst, University of Oslo, Norway

Background

Climate change represents an immediate and ongoing threat to population mental health, including traumatic stress responses. In addition to the mental health consequences of extreme weather events, the climate crisis involves the disruption and destruction of ecosystems and landscapes that support livelihoods and well-being (e.g., Augustinavicius et al., 2021). The psychological, physical, economic, and social, impacts of climate change are disproportionately felt by people already experiencing a range of adversities (e.g., Berry et al., 2018). It is imperative for mental health care providers and researchers to engage in intervention and advocacy efforts to address this ongoing crisis.

Aims

Projects developed by this network will aim to:

1. Provide conceptual clarity to the varied mental health responses to climate change,

2. Develop methods of assessing mental health in the context of climate change,

3. Develop appropriate intervention strategies with communities most impacted by climate change. 

We will start with a position paper focused on the role of psychology/psychologists in the climate crisis,

as well as empirical study summarizing mental health professionals’ current practices (e.g., how often are they “treating” climate-related distress? What approaches are they using and what’s effective?)

References

Augustinavicius, J., Lowe, S. R., Massazza, A., Hayes, K., Denckla, C. A., White, R. G., Cabán-Alemán, C., Clayton, S., Verdeli, L., & Berry, H. (2021). Global climate change and trauma. International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies.

Berry, H., Waite, T. D., Dear, K. B. G., Capon, A. G., & Murray, V. (2018). The case for systems thinking about climate change and mental health. Nature Climate Change, 8(4), 282-290. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0102-4

2. Differential impacts of and responses to climate change

 

Project group

Rachel Williamson (PI),  Phoebe Bean

Background and aims

The group is developing an online survey to assess prevalence, type, and impact of psychological responses to climate change, as well as coping methods and perceived effectiveness among adults. The question, “who is experiencing what?” is central to the aim, as different demographic variables (e.g., age, SES) are expected to predict different responses. The survey will collect quantitative and qualitative data. The study will pilot in Montana (US) and be refined for use with a global sample.

3. The multifaceted mental health burden of climate change

 

Project group

Francis Vergunst (PI), Rachel Williamson, Helen Berry, Miranda Olff

Background and aims

The goal of this paper is to present a conceptual model that describes the multifaceted mental health burden of climate change and, specifically, the functional domains that may be impacted. Empirical evidence suggests that climate change is exacerbating existing mental health conditions and creating additional challenges. The proposed model examines these layered and overlapping impacts on a dual-continuum that includes high/low dimensions of psychiatric diagnoses and psychosocial wellbeing.

Projects of interest (not exhaustive)

  1. Assessment and summary of mental health professionals’ current practices and experiences addressing climate-related distress.

  2. Empirical exploration of mortality salience as a mediating variable in the relationship between climate communication/awareness and behaviors/social-psychological responses.