The launch of a new Centre at Imperial reflects an increasing public concern about the interconnection of climate change and mental health.
The climate crisis is a crisis of humanity. It requires not only mitigation and adaptation, but also mental health and well-being to be at the heart of climate action. The new Climate Cares Centre at Imperial College London aims to understand and respond to the interconnections between climate change and mental health.
The centre, which launched on 28 September, has grown out of a collaboration started in 2019 between Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation (IGHI) and the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment.
The Climate Cares Centre will focus on mental health and wellbeing in the climate emergency. By raising this programme of work to the status of a Centre, Imperial researchers have signalled the increasing importance of studying, raising awareness of, and responding to this topic, and the benefits that their findings could bring for individuals, communities and the climate.
The Centre’s vision is for people, communities and systems to have the emotional resilience and transformative potential to cope with the climate emergency and to work collectively for a better future for the climate and our minds.
"The Climate Cares Centre is a crucial part of the effort to ensure we protect mental health in a changing climate"Dr Emma LawranceClimate Cares Lead
The Centre achieves this vision through four pillars of work: Research, Policy and Implementation, Education and Awareness, and Intervention Design
Dr Emma Lawrance, Climate Cares Lead and Mental Health Lead at IGHI said: “To advance a world where no one is held back by mental health problems, we need to put mental health at the heart of climate action. The Climate Cares Centre is a crucial part of the effort to ensure we protect mental health in a changing climate, while promoting the conditions for good mental health through climate action.”
Dr Lawrance describes the common causes of the mental health and climate crises – and the common solutions. One of these is strengthening connections across disciplines, sectors, communities and nations. “This is at the heart of the Climate Cares ethos, so our launch is an open invitation to join our efforts. We are so grateful to our partners and collaborators around the world, and we hope to grow in service to those already experiencing and responding to the mental health challenges that stem from continued use of fossil fuels.”
Sharing climate cares
At the event to celebrate the launch, held at Imperial College London’s White City campus, around 80 people came together to call attention to the intersection of climate change and mental health.
Professor Mary Ryan, Vice Provost (Research and Enterprise), who opened the event, said: “The Climate Cares Centre is a really great example of delivering innovation to solve global challenges, and doing so collaboratively – these are not problems that Imperial solves by itself. I am excited to see the team taking this challenge, surfacing it, and creating a programme to benefit society.”
During a panel discussion chaired by Professor Sir David Nabarro, Co-Director, IGHI, panellists reflected on why the work is vital.
Jennifer Uchendu, SustyVibes, said: “The work we have done together with Climate Cares is meaningful. It has provided people in the Global South the opportunity, through regional dialogues, to discuss how the climate crisis has impacted their mental health. People are suffering but we are giving them an opportunity to not just have a voice but to contribute to research.”
Dr Alan Dangour, Director of Climate and Health at Wellcome, said: “As the significant effects of climate change continue to be felt around the world, we are seeing continued examples of the ways in which our health is being eroded – and this includes our mental health and wellbeing. I am delighted to see the launch of the Climate Care Centre with its clear focus on the intersection of climate change and mental health. The Centre is an important example of the new research that needs to be conducted at the intersection of existing disciplinary areas, bringing together researchers and people with lived experience to generate new evidence and to identify much needed interventions.”
Dr Dangour also highlighted the work of the global project Connecting Climate Minds, which is funded by Wellcome and led by Climate Cares.
During the event, attendees shared why they feel the topic of the mental health impacts of climate change is important.
These thoughts underscore the issues raised in research by Climate Cares, including the concerns of young people in response to the climate emergency.
Speaking at the event, Sacha Wright, Head of Impact and Research, Force of Nature, said: “The Climate Cares Centre is getting at the root of the problem. In climate and mental health, your lived experience is your expertise. We need to readjust our ideas of who the experts are and reimagine the systems of power that historically, have excluded young people.”
Climate Cares has pioneered work on mental health and climate change. Outputs includes published research, a briefing paper on the evidence for the impact of climate change on mental health, collaborating with individuals and organisations around the globe, co-creating a course in climate change and mental health and developing an eco-anxiety journal.
Professor Sir David Nabarro said: "The exponential Climate crisis is precipitating a mental health emergency. This is a technical, social, and emotional issue. We have an extraordinary opportunity to make a meaningful contribution: it is a real honour."
Visit our Climate Cares Centre website: www.imperial.ac.uk/climate-cares
Watch our launch video:
See images from the launch event, Credit: Owen Billcliffe.
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