The effects of climate change impact everyone and we need to pay attention.
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
Over the weekend, as my wife and I were near Palm Springs and the temperature reached 108° F, the New York Times published a long article by Brooke Jarvis titled, “Climate Change Is Keeping Therapists Up at Night.” I imagine that most anyone living near there without air conditioning would also have trouble sleeping, yet A/C also can use much fossil-fuel energy.
My Rabbi son noticed the article first, sent it to me, and said, “You said this 15 years ago!” I was touched that he remembered, and said that is true, but a truth and prediction I did not want to happen. Back then I had started a fledging online group called Psychiatrists for Environmental Action and Knowledge (PEAK), which later morphed into the Climate Psychiatry Alliance (CPA).
Around the same time, the Climate Psychology Alliance developed.They, including psychologists like Andrew Bryant, are featured in this article. I was impressed with how those psychologists were grappling with the challenges. One issue is determining what is a normal response to climate change, and what is not. Another was the potential value of sharing that both patient and therapist were having similar anxiety about the climate.
At the end of the article, Bryant brought up discussion groups that were emerging outside of the therapy room in his unexpectedly affected Northwest, “brainstorming ways to adjust to climate change.” One example we encountered last night was individuals playing in an outdoor pool late at night in St. George, Utah as we were trying to go to sleep.
What was striking in its omission, though, was any mention or discussion in the article about trying to stop the progression of climate change and instability. In the October 2023 cover package, Psychiatric Times covered the youth of Montana, who successfully sued the state for the adverse effects of the energy policies there.
I think that ignoring the prevention of continuing climate change would be a collective therapeutic mistake. It is almost like the denial many of the public still have about climate change. The more adverse the climate change, the more mental health problems for humans, let alone the impact on most living things. Not arresting climate change adequately will certainly increase the need for climate-informed psychotherapy that we do not desire, do we?
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry, and is now in retirement and refirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.
1. Jarvis B. Climate change is keeping therapists up at night. The New York Times. October 21, 2023. Accessed October 23, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/21/magazine/climate-anxiety-therapy.html