Climate Change Is Destroying Our Planet And Our Mental Health, Global Study Finds

By now most Aussies accept that climate change is impacting our country. What's less known is that it is also affecting our mental health -- and our government isn't doing enough to stop it.

Prestigious medical journals Lancet and Medical Journal of Australia have joined forces to reveal the often unspoken impact of climate change, and have highlighted the Australian government's lack of action.

Published Thursday, the findings are alarming.

The authors said Australia has no national action plan for battling health issues relating to climate change.

Only Queensland has a framework for "exploring not only the impacts of climate change on health and well being but also gaps and barriers to adaptation, opportunities and co-benefits, and pathways to respond, in addition to the particulars of the plan itself", the report noted.

The NSW State Government announced a $6.3 billion injection to tackle a mental health crisis among the state's farmers.

"Australia lags behind comparable countries in terms of climate change and mental health," Fiona Armstrong, Executive Director of the Climate and Health Alliance told 10 daily.

"We won't meet our obligations to the Paris Agreement if we don't develop a human health and climate change agreement."

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The report found that all three tiers of government -- local, state and federal -- have an obligation to commit to climate change adaptation planning.

"The three tiers of government have differing areas of responsibility, from waste collection (local council) to health, transport and education (state/territory) to income tax and international trade and diplomacy (federal)," the report said.

Australian farmers have dealt with what may be the worst drought in 800 years. Photo: Supplied.

Mental health can be directly impacted by climate change, and more specifically, hotter weather.

"In Australia, hot days have a damaging effect on whole-population mental health equivalent to that of unemployment and predict hospitalisation for self-harm," the report said.

"In warmer states and territories, higher mean annual maximum temperatures predict elevated suicide rates."

In laymen's term -- the hotter it is the higher suicide rates will be.

But heat can also exacerbate mental illnesses.

"Heat can interact with medications, cause dehydration and make people disorientated," Armstrong said.

In regions that are experiencing increasingly dry weather, farmers in particular are suffering negative mental health impacts from income and livelihood losses.

"Climate change can have a severe impact on farmers who spend years developing genetically superior stocks, and then lose them," Armstrong said.

READ MORE: Mental Health Counsellors To Help Drought-Stricken Farmers

Statistics also show in hotter weather rates of violence and domestic violence go up, Armstrong said.

Climate change is a major factor in the migration of people as areas cannot flourish like they once did, Armstrong said.

UN Humanitarian Chief Stephen O'Brien stands over dead livestock at the UN aid relief camp at Bandadero village near Moyale, North Kenya.  (Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images for UNOCHA)

In Australia, outback towns and farms are being abandoned because they are no longer economically viable to live in.

"Coastal towns, like places in the Torres Strait, are already being inundated with water, and they have to make decisions about where they will go," Armstrong said.

"The loss of culture, land and in some cases family contact has serious negative impacts on mental health."

READ MORE: PNG Leader Issues Clear Reminder To Scott Morrison On Climate Change Action

The people of Kiribati are under pressure to relocate due to sea level rise. Each year, the sea level rises by about half an inch. (Photo by Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images)

But, as Armstrong pointed out, it is often the social and mental cost that is much higher than the economic loss.

Contact the author jdunned@networkten.com.au

Featured Image: Getty Images