Africa: Climate Crisis Stirs a Physical and Mental Health Storm


Natural disasters, burning fossil fuel plants and extreme weather not only affect our planet but are taking a severe toll on our mental health - something exacerbated by government inaction, a new study has found.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

South Africans were not only experiencing the physical effects of the climate crisis through floods and droughts, but their mental health was also at risk, a new study by the Centre for Environmental Rights shows.

Dealing with the effects of extreme climate events on mental health was equally as important as addressing the immediate natural disaster event, the centre said in a report, The Psychological and Mental Health Consequences of Climate Change in South Africa.

The study, conducted by clinical psychologist Dr Garret Barnwell, also showed that living close to fossil-fuel plants posed just as significant a threat as a weather disaster to the mental health of those in the affected area.

Barnwell said young people, women, children and those living in and around towns that produced coal energy were most vulnerable to climate change affecting their mental health, with a delayed government response exacerbating this vulnerability.

The effects were already being felt, the report indicated,...

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