An international consortium led by teams from Imperial and funded by Wellcome will facilitate mental health and climate change dialogues in 2023.
Climate Cares at the Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment will work with international partners to facilitate a series of regional and global dialogues on climate change and mental health. The ambitious year-long project is called 'Connecting Climate Minds', and will be delivered through Imperial Projects. It aims to better understand the mental health needs of communities around the world affected by climate change, and how aligned research and action on climate threats can support a safer climate future where no-one is held back by mental health challenges.
Working with partners in the seven Sustainable Development Goal regions, a series of regional dialogues will convene experts across diverse research disciplines, policy, practice, and those living with mental health challenges affected by climate change. A global series of dialogues will be led by and for youth and Indigenous communities. The project will also build communities of practice that connect the diverse disciplines and sectors relevant to understand and respond to the interconnections between climate change and mental health and learn from exemplary work already happening around the world. These communities will form a stronger, inclusive and aligned basis to enact the research and action agenda.
With the climate emergency straining the mental health of communities around the world, there is an urgent need for a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities for mental health in the context of climate change. This project will endeavour to resolve some of the challenges of the climate change and mental health space. In a field rapidly growing in response to the undeniable needs, current research and action remains disconnected, uneven, and siloed. Excellent work happening in some countries is not known about in others, and research has primarily been conducted in high income contexts, missing many millions deeply affected. The true costs of climate change on mental health and the co-benefits of climate action are still not understood and measured, and interventions are not widely known or evaluated. Similarly climate expertise – and the associated methodologies, datasets and policies – is underrepresented.
By fostering connected communities of practice and an inclusive, aligned research and action agenda at regional and global levels, this project hopes to strengthen the shared understandings and mission of the climate change and mental health field, while catalysing required investment in achieving this going forward. Lived experience stories will be central to the work and to understanding priorities in each region.
A hybrid global event will be held in Jamaica to further foster connection and shared learnings, while launching the Global Online Hub that will make the project outputs (including papers, briefings, stories and toolkits) more accessible to all. These outputs will published at the end of 2023 and in early 2024.
This ground-breaking year-long process will bring together diverse disciplines, sectors and communities to connect and align on an actionable research agenda, embedded in lived experience and with direct links to policy and practice.
Catalysing a global research community
The Climate Cares team, headed by Dr Emma Lawrance, is thrilled to drive this work with a fantastic coalition of organisations including the International Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, Sustyvibes, Force of Nature, the Climate Mental Health Network and international experts from around the world including the Caribbean (The University of the West Indies), Philippines (St Luke's Medical Center) and Nigeria (Imo University and Claretian University).
Dr Lawrance said: “We believe this project can catalyse a better-aligned global research community deeply connected to lived experience. One that is more equipped to understand and advocate for the actions that support mental wellbeing and a liveable climate, and address the escalating mental health needs imposed by insufficient global climate action.”
Wellcome's vision is of a world where catastrophic climate breakdown is averted in a way that allows human health to flourish and where no one is held back by mental health problems.
Madeleine Thompson, Head of Climate Impacts and Adaptation at Wellcome said: “We have seen more people living with poor mental health as a consequence of the growing effects of climate change but huge gaps in our knowledge about the interactions persist. There is insufficient research on the how and why, and the experiences of the communities that are living with mental health impacts on the frontlines of the climate crisis are often missed.
“We want to change this. That's why we're pleased to launch this year-long global project to bring together scientists and frontline communities to uncover where the needs are greatest and more importantly, to spur on action. Armed with better information, countries will be able to take mental health considerations into their plans for dealing with the consequences of climate change.”
Climate Cares has pioneered work on mental health and climate change, including publishing this briefing paper. To date the mental health impacts of climate change have received much less attention than the physical health impacts.
Dr Emma Lawrance said: “To really make a difference to the intertwined challenges straining people’s mental health and breaking our climate, there is a great need for spaces that foster connection. We are thrilled for the opportunity to connect diverse talents and perspectives on a shared vision for the climate and mental health space.”
Professor David Nabarro, Co-Director, IGHI said: “We are grateful to Wellcome for recognising the need for research on mental health and climate change. We are delighted to be partnering with them on this exciting initiative.
Jennifer Uchendu, founder of SustyVibes said: "I believe that through this project, historically unheard voices will be highlighted and we can truly begin to have meaningful conversations on climate change and mental health. Conversations grounded in climate justice and inclusion. Thanks to Wellcome and all our amazing partners!"
Dr Pablo Suarez, Innovation Lead, Red Cross said: “As humanitarians, we are witnessing a terrifying pattern: changing climate risks are impairing the mental health of those we serve, and of our own teams... If the interplay between climate change and mental health is not fully understood and addressed, psychosocial concerns can paralyze and demotivate the very same people who need to turn early warnings into early action. This new and exciting work funded by Wellcome will improve our collective ability to anticipate, diagnose, and provide proper support – harnessing the power of darkness to pursue illumination and transformative action.”
If you are interested in either contributing to, or being kept informed of, this project, please visit Connecting Climate Minds.
Our global project team brings together experts across Imperial College London, the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, the Climate Mental Health Network, SustyVibes, Force of Nature, St Luke's Medical Center, the The University of the West Indies and Claretian University.
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