The American Psychiatric Association (APA) is the latest to join the growing ranks of experts from the medical science fraternity who are raising the alarm about the adverse impact of the changing environment on the physical and mental health of individuals
Taking note of the devastating consequences of climate change around the world, in its position statement, the APA pledged its support to patients, communities and health care organizations battling adverse mental health effects of climate change. Joshua Morganstein, the lead author of the position statement and a member of the APA’s Psychiatric Dimensions of Disaster Committee, attributed the association’s stand to the growing body of scientific evidence on the damaging effects of climate change. “There’s a relatively robust body of literature about the adverse psychological and behavioral health effects of weather-related disasters,” he told the Medscape Medical News.
Morganstein, along with a team of experts, also made a significant contribution to mental health in a recent federal report on climate change. The main findings of the report are:
- Exposure to environmental disasters could result in chronic mental health disorders.
- Children, the elderly, the economically disadvantaged and those battling preexisting mental health issues face higher odds of even more adverse problems arising from climatic changes.
- Populations relying on natural resources for sustenance are also a part of the high-risk group.
- Communities living in zones, which are vulnerable to climate change, are at heightened risk for severe mental health problems.
- Extreme heat is a major threat to the physical and mental well-being of individuals.
US is in the grip of mental health problems
The existing socio-cultural set-up, where the mere expression of vulnerability is viewed as a sign of weakness, often tends to increase the stigma surrounding mental health ailments. In fact, even near and dear ones including family members don’t seem to prioritize such problems as they would in the case of other physical illnesses. It is sad that the lack of understanding about mental health problems creates complications for the patients and they end up not getting the much needed and deserved attention. Despite the fact that social stigma associated with mental disorders has diminished from what it was some decades ago, psychiatric problems still continue to claim millions of victims due to their hesitance in seeking help fearing discrimination.
Although in the past few decades, significant research has led experts to shed light on the recurrent and chronic nature of such a condition, unfortunately, most general health practitioners tend not to treat mental health issues in the same manner as other chronic physical health ailments such as diabetes and hypertension. “When we treat high blood pressure, the blood pressure may start at 150 over 95, and then it’s monitored over time until it gets to a level that’s being aimed for,” said Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, President and CEO of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, an organization committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness. “If somebody has depression, their symptoms need to be monitored until it gets to a level that the depression is lifted. If we actually treat depression as a chronic illness and use the level of tools we’re using for diabetes, then we’ll be able to better treat patients — and help them live healthier lives and more productive lives,” he said.
Another major reason which makes individuals overlook the serious nature of mental health disorders is that there are still many people who have limited access to specialty mental health care, in addition to lack of insurance coverage. Moreover, studies show that in a bid to self-medicate, individuals battling mental health problems also fall prey to substance use disorders.
Mental health disorders must be nipped in the bud or else they can be immensely devastating. Despite the availability of several effective treatments, the stigma of being branded as a weak person prevents many from overcoming mental illness through professional help. Knowing how to deal with mental illness on the same lines as in the case of other chronic diseases, which demand a thorough mental health diagnosis, regular check-ups and monitoring of treatment adherence, increases chances of recovery.
The Sovereign Health Group is one of the leading mental health service providers in the U.S., which provides treatment for all kinds of mental disorders as well as any underlying condition. Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized treatment options suited to treat the person holistically. Our residential mental illness treatment centers in California are among the best in the nation. Call at our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to know about our most effective recovery programs to treat them at the earliest.