IFRC reference centres partner with new Connecting Climate Minds global project

IFRC reference centres partner with new Connecting Climate Minds global project
18 April 2023

By the Climate Centre

A ground-breaking project to catalyse global research at the intersection of climate change and mental health was launched today at an online event.

Funded by the Wellcome charitable health foundation and led by Imperial College London, the new Connecting Climate Minds consortium includes experts from the Climate Centre and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre as well as Sustyvibes, Force of Nature, the Climate Mental Health Network, and others from the University of the West Indies, St Luke’s Medical Center in the Philippines, and Nigeria’s Imo and Claretian Universities.

The Climate Cares group at the Institute of Global Health Innovation and the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment “will work with international partners to facilitate a series of regional and global dialogues on climate change and mental health,” a press release from ICL said today. 

The dialogues will convene experts across a variety of research fields, and the project will also connect disciplines and sectors relevant to the “interconnections between climate change and mental health, and learn from exemplary work already happening around the world.”

Climate Cares head Emma Lawrance said: “We believe this project can catalyse a better-aligned global research community deeply connected to lived experience. One that is more equipped to understand and advocate for the actions that support mental well-being and a liveable climate, and address the escalating mental health needs imposed by insufficient global climate action.”

‘If the interplay between climate change and mental health is not addressed, psychosocial concerns can demotivate the very people who need to turn early warnings into early action’

Madeleine Thompson, Head of Climate Impacts and Adaptation at Wellcome, said: “We have seen more people living with poor mental health as a consequence of the growing effects of climate change, but huge gaps in our knowledge about the interactions persist.

“There is insufficient research on the how and why, and the experiences of the communities that are living with mental health impacts on the front lines of the climate crisis are often missed. We want to change this.”

The Climate Centre’s Virtually Amazing team, supported by its specialists in health and social protection and regional focal points, will lead on designing digital interfaces and workshop materials, emphasizing accessibility.

“We’re delighted to be contributing to the Connecting Climate Minds project,” said Meghan Bailey, who leads the centre’s work on climate-responsive social protection and the climate-health nexus.   

“The mental health impacts of a changing climate are growing rapidly, and we are seeing demands from across our network to support vulnerable populations with the psychological effects of extreme weather, the erosion of traditional livelihoods, and the loss of ecosystem services, to name only a few.”

The Climate Centre’s Margot Curl, who leads work on innovative engagement and youth, said today: “Attention on the mental health impacts of the climate crisis has grown rapidly in the past year alone, yet the climate and mental health space remains fragmented; there is rapid progress in some places while critical gaps remain in others.”

Complex connections

Connecting Climate Minds also plans a hybrid global event in Jamaica to provide a platform for shared lessons, while an online information hub will carry papers, briefings, stories and toolkits starting later this year.

The Climate Centre’s Associate Director for Research and Innovation, Pablo Suarez, adds: “If the interplay between climate change and mental health is not fully understood and addressed, psychosocial concerns can paralyze and demotivate the very same people who need to turn early warnings into early action.

“This new and exciting work will improve our collective ability to anticipate, diagnose, and provide proper support.” 

The Climate Centre and the IFRC Psychosocial Centre, through their work with National Societies, have witnessed first-hand how climate change and extreme weather and the loss and damage they cause increasingly affect mental health.

With the Netherlands Red Cross last October, they published a fact sheet on mental health and climate impacts aimed at improving understanding of the complex connections between them.

Guatemalan Red Cross volunteers provide welcome distraction to children affected by heavy rains, floods, and landslides across Central America from Panama to Belize, in the wake of Hurricane Eta in 2020. The situation in Guatemala was reported to be especially serious – and difficult for people to cope with. (Library photo: Guatemalan Red Cross via IFRC)