Here’s why we should be talking—no, screaming—about much needed climate action.
PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS
You cannot hear my voice in this daily written column, so just assume that I am silently screaming, sort of like the iconic person in the Munch famous painting “The Scream.” I suppose that there is no serendipitous wonder that on November 11th, some climate activists tried to glue themselves to the painting at the National Museum in Oslo, Norway. The painting was not harmed. This was the latest in a series of similar events involving artistic masterpieces.
In a guest essay for the New York Times on Sunday, November 13th, titled “What Happens When a Cascade of Crises Collide?” the authors connected the climate crisis to a “perfect storm” of simultaneous global crises and proposed a “worldwide scientific collaboration” to identify any common casual mechanisms.1
Again on November 11th, another crisis emerged, that being a crypto currency exchange crisis. Previously, I had written and presented on my perception that capitalism running amok had tied together the climate, racism, burnout, and the pandemic, such as in the July 8th, 2022, article “Capitalism and Psychiatry” for Psychiatric Times™.2
Our last daily column on November 11th, was titled “Some Memes for Mental Health on Veterans Day.”3 Veterans Day connects to the nuclear risk in Ukraine that was mentioned in the New York Times article.
We are in the midst of the COP27 climate talks in Egypt, 26 years since the first UN Climate Conference, but progress seems grossly inadequate. No wonder climate activists are starting to scream in different ways.
Right after the climate talks are over Friday, the 2022 World Soccer Cup will start this coming Sunday in Qatar, one of the wealthiest—and hottest—countries in the world. Despite the health warnings of ever higher heat, thousands of foreign workers have died while working outdoors to build the sports structures.
Perhaps the resolution of our midterm election will allow more cognitive focus on such longer-term risks as the climate. For us in psychiatry, we can reassess our climate strategies. As a founder of PEAK (Psychiatrists for Environmental Action and Knowledge) and cofounder of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance (CPA) which evolved from PEAK, I think that we have had great success in adapting our traditional clinician skills to climate-related mental conditions, but have been an abject failure in the preventive political realm.
To do more from a preventive standpoint, we certainly should be represented in any scientific collaboration that may emerge, but in the meanwhile, we could develop mental health memes/slogans specifically geared to the climate. One such meme might be the title of this column. Others could be:
Climate Instability Needs Mental Healthcare Stabilization
It is Crazy Not to Treat Climate Instability
Our Collective Unconscious Needs to Become Conscious of Our Climate
What climate mental health memes, or other appropriately creative ways to obtain climate attention, come to mind?
Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.
1. Homer-Dixon T, Rockström J. What happens when a cascade of crises collide? The New York Times. November 13, 2022. Accessed November 15, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/13/opinion/coronavirus-ukraine-climate-inflation.html
2. Moffic HS. Capitalism and psychiatry. Psychiatric Times. July 9, 2020. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/capitalism-psychiatry
3. Moffic HS. Some memes for mental health on Veterans Day. Psychiatric Times. November 11, 2022. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/some-memes-for-mental-health-on-veterans-day