Working Group on the Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Psychosocial Well-Being: Guidelines for Action

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(1) Inka Weissbecker, PhD
NGO Representative to the United Nations of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS, in consultative status with DPI and ECOSOC), MPH candidate, Harvard School of Public Health, Associate Research Scientist, Center for Hazards Research and Policy Development, University of Louisville, Boston, MA 02115. Tel: (617) 513-3396, Email: . Bio on Dr. Inka Weissbecker

(2) Nancy E. Wallace, LMSW
NGO Representative to the United Nations of the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). 230 East 78 Street Ste. 27, New York, NY 10021, Tel: 917-842-4733, Email:  Bio on Nancy E. Wallace.




To review current scientific and empirical evidence on the possible impact of climate change on mental health and psychosocial well-being, and to recommend specific actions to be implemented by UN agencies, governments, donors, NGOs, and civil society at large.


Climate change is increasing the severity of disasters and adverse weather conditions worldwide, with particularly devastating effects on developing countries. Growing scientific evidence shows that events such as natural disasters can have severe and long-lasting effects on physical health as well as on mental health and psychosocial well-being. The global burden of mental and substance use disorders is also likely to rise via multiple inter-related social and economic stressors, including poverty, food insecurity, population displacement, conflict, and fragmented social structures. As a consequence, social and economic development as well as community functioning are likely to be disrupted or even reversed for years to come. Individuals with lower resources as well as women, children, the elderly, the disabled, and those with pre-existing mental health or substance use problems are especially vulnerable. They are more likely to show severe and persistent stress reactions and are less likely to recover socioeconomically. On the other hand, individuals and communities can often show resilience in the face of crises. It is crucial to build on such existing strengths in order to improve psychosocial well-being and thereby empower communities. Addressing the projected impact of climate change on mental health and psychosocial well-being requires the collaboration and effort of multiple stakeholders including UN agencies, governments, donors, NGOs, universities, and civil society at large. This chapter outlines several recommendations and action priorities aimed at reducing the global burden of mental health, substance use, and psychosocial problems that may directly or indirectly result from climate change.