Exploring Climate Change and Mental Health

Exploring Climate Change and Mental Health

Natania Abebe, MSN/MPH(c), BScN, RN

Exploring Climate Change and Mental Health

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Exploring Climate Change and Mental Health by Natania Abebe, MSN/MPH(c), BScN, RN is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Licensing Info

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This textual and video work is licensed under a CC-BY-NC license

You are free to:

The licensor cannot revoke these freedoms as long as you follow the license terms.

Under the following terms:

No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

Image License

The images of climate change experts, students, and film crew are licensed under All Rights Reserved to protect the images from being reused for purposes other than the toolkit is intended.

 

 

About this Toolkit

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This toolkit features a film that discusses the topic of mental health and climate change. The film highlights the voices of students and climate change experts who have previously taken or were guest lecturers in the NURS290: Health Impacts of Climate Change course in at the University of British Columbia.

The toolkit is meant to empower students to think critically about the structural inequities that affect them and challenge the assumption that they do not have the capacity to critique as well as overcome the sociopolitical issues that affect them. Questions that explore eco-anxiety, ecological paralysis, and ecological grief are included in this toolkit. Students are encouraged to answer questions according to the emotions that they resonate most with and want to explore further. Additionally, students are encouraged to examine the relationship between anthropogenic activity, mental health, and their values, emotions, and behaviors.

Acknowledgements

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The author would like to acknowledge that this project was filmed and written on the ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

The author would also like to acknowledge the mentorship and support provided by Dr. Elisabeth Bailey and Raluca Radu throughout this project.

The author would also like to acknowledge Erin Fields, with her support in creating this Press Book.

Lastly, the author would like to acknowledge the AMS Student Society of UBC Vancouver for granting the author funding for this project.

Introduction

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The Anthropocene is “an unofficial unit of geologic time, used to describe the most recent period in Earth’s history when human activity started to have a significant impact on the planet’s climate and ecosystems” (National Geographic, n.d). Unfortunately, human dominance over Earth’s biophysical processes has evoked negative emotional responses due to the scale of environmental change (Albrecht, 2019; 2020).

In today’s world, many individuals suffer from feelings of being emotionally lost and trapped within social and political systems that hurt our environment (Albrecht, 2019). Consequently, despite many people in the Global North living lives of material affluence, many do so at the expense of their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Though the research literature on climate change and mental health is nascent, evidence suggests that there will be an increase in the prevalence and incidence of psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, psychotic disorders, and suicide (Cianconi, Betrò & Janiri, 2020; Clayton et. al, 2017). Other major epidemiological trends include “higher rates of aggression and violence, more mental health emergencies, an increased sense of helplessness, hopelessness, or fatalism, and intense feelings of loss” (Clayton et. al, 2017, p. 4). These feelings of loss, helplessness and hopelessness are related to a phenomenon known as psychoterratic syndromes. “Psychoterratic syndromes” is an umbrella term that includes a number of mental states that can be conceptualized as “Earth emotions” (Albrecht, 2019). Such conditions refer to the relationship between our minds and our planet and includes phenomena such as: eco-anxiety, eco-paralysis and ecological grief.

References

Climate Change Experts

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Dr. Courtney Howard

Dr. Courtney Howard is an Emergency Physician in Yellowknive’s Dene Territory, a Clinical Associate Professor in the Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, a Community Research Fellow in Planetary Health at the Dahdaleh Institute for Global Health Research, and Past-President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). Dr Howard worked in Djibouti for six months on a pediatric malnutrition project with Médecins Sans Frontières, and that experience drives much of her work on climate-related mitigation and adaptation. She has researched menstrual cups and wildfires, and led policy work and advocacy regarding eco-anxiety, vaccine equity, movement-building, active transport, plant-rich diets, fossil fuel divestment, carbon pricing, coal phase-out, hydraulic fracturing and with regards to Canada’s Oil Sands. She led the 2017-2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Briefings for Canadian Policymakers and was the 2018 International Policy Director for the Lancet Countdown. Dr. Howard sits on the boards of the Canadian Medical Association and the Global Climate and Health Alliance, is the co-chair for advocacy for the WHO-Civil Society Working Group on Climate Change and Health, as well as being on the Steering Committee of the Planetary Health Alliance, and the Editorial Advisory Boards of the Lancet Planetary Health and the Journal of Climate Change and Health. When not in the ER or deep in a literature review she can be found dancing with her two young daughters on the shores of Back Bay in Canada’s subarctic.

Dr. Melissa Lem

Dr. Melissa Lem is a Vancouver family physician who also works in rural and northern communities within Canada. President-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and Founder and Director of PaRx/Park Prescriptions for the BC Parks Foundation, she is a long-time advocate for the health benefits of time spent in nature and ecosystem conservation. A widely published writer, she was the resident medical expert on CBC TV’s hit lifestyle show Steven and Chris for four seasons and continues to appear on air as a regular contributor to CBC Radio and CTV News. Dr. Lem was the inaugural winner of University College’s Young Alumni of Influence Award at the University of Toronto, a 2020 Joule Innovation grant recipient from the Canadian Medical Association, a 2021 World Parks Week Ambassador, and is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia. She also enjoys collaborating with global colleagues on the Advisory Committee of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Health and Well-being Specialist Group.

Raluca Radu, RN, MSN

Ms. Raluca Radu is a dedicated nursing professional with a deep passion for promoting planetary health and advancing knowledge in this realm. She has worked in both the public and private sectors as a clinical resource surgical nurse as well as in occupational health and safety locally and for a short duration in Northern British Columbia. In addition, she has been very fond of working in various educator roles, especially that of a Lecturer in the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where she thoroughly enjoys being the lead for the Health Impacts of Climate Change course (Nursing 290). Ms. Radu values a learning environment conducive of positive behaviours as one that is inviting, safe to participate in, and a key determinant of success in education. Overtime, Ms. Radu has increased her understanding of the critical role served by health professionals to integrate the social determinants of health and apply an equity lens at each level of decision-making, in order to ensure all voices and stories of individuals who experience marginalization are lifted and included. This is even more critical as we face the largest crisis of the 21st century, climate change, which will only further exacerbate inequities. Ms. Radu is hopeful that through her roles as an emerging planetary health expert sitting on countless provincial and national committees, mentor, and educator she will inspire others to integrate sustainable principles into their practices and daily lives, such that we can ensure a Planet where biodiversity is protected and where future generations can thrive. Contact email: raluca.radu@alumni.ubc.ca. Be sure to follow Ms. Radu on Twitter @_Raluca_R.

UBC Students

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The students featured in this film are undergraduate students who have previously enrolled in the NURS290: Health Impacts of Climate Change course at the University of British Columbia. Their names are Dylan, Emilie, Lauren, Magalee, Yunuhen and Zahra.

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=50#h5p-7

The Film

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Thumbnail for the embedded element "Climate Change and Mental Health #ecoanxiety #ecoparalysis #ecogrief"

A YouTube element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here: https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=82

Watch this documentary prior to answering the reflective questions. After watching the film, answer the reflective questions according to the emotion you resonate most with (either eco-anxiety, eco-paralysis or ecological grief).

Eco-Anxiety

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Eco-anxiety is defined as “a chronic fear of environmental doom” (Clayton et. al, 2017, p. 68). An example of eco-anxiety is when one feels anxious about the likelihood of severe weather events due to 24/7 news coverage that is available from one’s cellphone (Albercht, 2019).

Select the images above to view a video on eco-anxiety from climate change experts and students.

Reflective Questions

Complete the following interactive reflective questions and download your responses or use the print format [PDF].

 

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=73#h5p-2

 

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=73#h5p-1

 

 What Values Move You?

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=73#h5p-6

 

Examples of Values*:

*This values list is an adaptation from the 3rd edition of Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (2012).
Acceptance
Accuracy
Achievement
Adventure
Authority
Autonomy
Balance
Beauty
Bravery
Caring
Challenge
Change
Comfort
Commitment
Compassion
Community
Contribution
Cooperation
Courtesy
Creativity
Dependability
Duty
Ecology
Equity
Equanimity
Excitement
Faithfulness
Fame
Family
Fitness
Flexibility
Forgiveness
Friendship
Fun
Generosity
Genuineness
Growth
Health
Helpfulness
Honesty
Hope
Humility
Humor
Independence
Inner peace
Justice
Knowledge
Leisure
Love
Mastery
Mindfulness
Moderation
Non-conformity
Nurturance
Openness
Order
Passion
Pleasure
Popularity
Power
Purpose
Rationality
Realism
Responsibility
Safety
Self acceptance
Self control
Self esteem
Self knowledge
Service
Simplicity
Solitude
Spirituality
Stability
Tolerance
Tradition
Virtue
Wealth
World peace
Other

 

References

Eco-Paralysis

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Eco-paralysis is conceptualized as the response people give when faced by the feeling that one cannot do anything meaningful to positively affect climate change. Eco-paralysis is commonly linked to feelings of powerlessness, which can look like apathy, complacency or disengagement (Albercht, 2019).

Select the images above to view a video on eco-paralysis from climate change experts and students.

Reflective Questions

Complete the following interactive reflective questions and download your responses or use the print format [PDF].

 

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=75#h5p-11

 

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=75#h5p-8

 

 What Values Move You?

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=75#h5p-12

 

Examples of Values*:

*This values list is an adaptation from the 3rd edition of Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (2012).
Acceptance
Accuracy
Achievement
Adventure
Authority
Autonomy
Balance
Beauty
Bravery
Caring
Challenge
Change
Comfort
Commitment
Compassion
Community
Contribution
Cooperation
Courtesy
Creativity
Dependability
Duty
Ecology
Equity
Equanimity
Excitement
Faithfulness
Fame
Family
Fitness
Flexibility
Forgiveness
Friendship
Fun
Generosity
Genuineness
Growth
Health
Helpfulness
Honesty
Hope
Humility
Humor
Independence
Inner peace
Justice
Knowledge
Leisure
Love
Mastery
Mindfulness
Moderation
Non-conformity
Nurturance
Openness
Order
Passion
Pleasure
Popularity
Power
Purpose
Rationality
Realism
Responsibility
Safety
Self acceptance
Self control
Self esteem
Self knowledge
Service
Simplicity
Solitude
Spirituality
Stability
Tolerance
Tradition
Virtue
Wealth
World peace
Other

 

References

Ecological Grief

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Ecological grief Ecological grief is defined as “the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental change” (Cunsolo & Ellis, 2018, p. 275).

Select the images above to view a video on ecological grief from climate change experts and students.

Reflective Questions

Complete the following interactive reflective questions and download your responses or use the print format [PDF].

 

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=78#h5p-13

 

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=78#h5p-14

 

 What Values Move You?

An interactive H5P element has been excluded from this version of the text. You can view it online here:
https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/eccmh/?p=78#h5p-15

 

Examples of Values*:

*This values list is an adaptation from the 3rd edition of Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick (2012).
Acceptance
Accuracy
Achievement
Adventure
Authority
Autonomy
Balance
Beauty
Bravery
Caring
Challenge
Change
Comfort
Commitment
Compassion
Community
Contribution
Cooperation
Courtesy
Creativity
Dependability
Duty
Ecology
Equity
Equanimity
Excitement
Faithfulness
Fame
Family
Fitness
Flexibility
Forgiveness
Friendship
Fun
Generosity
Genuineness
Growth
Health
Helpfulness
Honesty
Hope
Humility
Humor
Independence
Inner peace
Justice
Knowledge
Leisure
Love
Mastery
Mindfulness
Moderation
Non-conformity
Nurturance
Openness
Order
Passion
Pleasure
Popularity
Power
Purpose
Rationality
Realism
Responsibility
Safety
Self acceptance
Self control
Self esteem
Self knowledge
Service
Simplicity
Solitude
Spirituality
Stability
Tolerance
Tradition
Virtue
Wealth
World peace
Other

 

References

References

VI

Conclusion

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The purpose of this toolkit is to help you reflect on the relationship between anthropogenic activity, mental health and your values, emotions and behaviours. Though the topic of climate change can be challenging, hopefully you have identified helpful tools to cope and feel empowered  to find ways to overcome the sociopolitical issues that affect you and the world at large.

 

Biographies - Film Crew

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Natania Abebe, RN, MSN/MPH (c) – Director, Producer, Editor

Natania is an experienced registered nurse whose clinical expertise is in mental health and public health. She is currently completing a double master’s degree in nursing and public health at the University of British Columbia. Having worked in both Ontario and British Columbia, her interests include health promotion, knowledge translation, gender equality, anti-racist health care approaches and media and health. Some of the projects Natania is involved with includes her work as the co-founder of Stars in a Jar and the Coalition of African, Caribbean and Black Nurses in British Columbia. Additionally, Natania is a film maker. For example, her film, Just a Nurse won an international film campaign and was subsequently screened at LucasFilm Studios and translated into Spanish by the General Council of Spain.

Adrian Harewood – Narrator

Adrian is the host of CBC News Ottawa at 6. Harewood attended elementary and high school at Ashbury College, and was involved in community radio at CKCU (Carleton University) and CHUO (University of Ottawa). He has been a guest host on national CBC programs such as As it Happens, Sounds Like Canada and The Current. Before coming to television, Harewood was the host of All In A Day on CBC Radio One in Ottawa. In addition to his work at the CBC, Adrian is an associate professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.

Navjit Gill – Director of Photography

Navjit Gill is an award-winning digital artist. Navjit helped create blockbuster animated movies like SpiderMan Into The Spiderverse, How To Train Your Dragon movies and many more. His focus has been color and lighting in animated films, which has expanded as a hobby into videography. Born in Nigeria to Indian parents, at first he intended to be an engineer and then stumbled in the world of computer graphics. Making his way to Hollywood and growing as an artist. He now lives and works in Vancouver, pursuing creative ideas and enjoying the beautiful nature of BC.

Natalia Gubareva – Camera Operator

As a little child, Natalia dreamed of traveling the world. However, being from a place known locally as the ‘dead end’ where the train arrives and always turns back, her ability to break away and accomplish her childhood dreams was difficult even to imagine. Natalia started exploring the world while undertaking a bachelor of digital media at the College of Fine Arts, UNSW, Australia. Since then Natalia has been working as both a cinematographer, colourist and a digital artist. Her work as a cinematographer is composed of various documentaries, the most recent of which was “To the Edge with Ray Zahab: Gobi Desert”. Her work as a digital artist includes movies such as “The Angry Birds Movie”, “The Lego Movie”, “Walking with Dinosaurs”, “ Mission: Impossible –Ghost Protocol”, “Prometheus”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2” and many others. Visit her website for more information: https://www.nataliagubareva.com/.

Johann McBee, MTA – Composer (Mini Clips)

Johann graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Therapy in 2018, and maintains the accreditations as a music therapist in both Canada and the United States. In 2013 he discovered the handpan, a beautiful and unique melodic percussion instrument invented in 2001, making it one of the newest acoustic instruments made. The handpan is the focus of his performing work in recent years, from busking in Vancouver to playing gigs including wedding and corporate events, recording an album and numerous videos, and more recently, teaching music lessons to handpan players. Visit his website for more information: https://www.johannmcbee.com/.