Climate Change and Mental Health: Action Recommended at the Mental Health Summit Ministerial Agenda

By Sarah Kline, CEO and Co-Founder of UnitedGMH 

Dr. Barbosa, Regional Director, Pan American Health Organization, at the 5th Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in Argentina.

Dr. Barbosa, Regional Director, Pan American Health Organization, at the 5th Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit in Argentina.

UnitedGMH helped organise and deliver the fifth Mental Health Ministerial Summit that has now concluded in Argentina. The overall theme was mental health in all policies and there were discussions covering a wide range of topics accordingly. 

As a member of the summit’s advisory committee I really enjoyed seeing everyone who had worked so hard over the past year to design and deliver the summit. And the wide range of government officials and CSOs, especially from the Latin American region, who participated in the various sessions and explained how they are working to improve mental health in their countries.

You can find more details about the summit here.

But what did we at UnitedGMH achieve this week?

UnitedGMH aimed to put climate change and the environment on the agenda. And I think we succeeded. We were there to make the case for urgent action: climate change is a mental health in all policies issue.

With the support of Wellcome we sponsored the participation of climate change experts including:

  • Marina Romanello, Research Director at the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.
  • Jura Augustinavicius, Assistant Professor at McGill WHO Collaborating Center for Research and Training in Mental Health and Department of Equity, Ethics, and Policy, McGill School of Population and Global Health.
  • Pierre Cooke mental health activist and a person with lived experience, from Barbados. 

They helped lead the workshop we organised and spent the conference meeting with different stakeholders and advocating for action. You can watch Pierre describe what he did at the summit here. As he said in the workshop, there is an intrinsic link between addressing climate change and ensuring good mental health for all.

“A failure to protect the environment is a commitment to violate human rights” – Pierre Cooke Jr

The official recommendations from the summit included these from the workshop we organised:

  1. Integrate mental health into Health National Adaptation Plans (HNAPs): this would enable the development of a whole-of-government action plan for climate change and health resiliency and promotion through cross-sectorial adaptation and mitigation activities that fully incorporate mental health.
  2. Integrate mental health into Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), including concrete plans to prevent, manage and promote mental health.

We will use the momentum we generated to help increase awareness of, and demand action to address, the links between mental health and climate change and environmental changes around the world. And we will continue to promote the voices of those most affected today and in the future. Now we are looking ahead to the COP meeting later this year, the climate change and health WHA resolution in 2024 and other key meetings next year, not least the next mental health ministerial summit which will be held in Qatar in 2024.

In his concluding remarks Dr Barbosa, Regional Director, Pan American Health Organisation, emphatically said, “Climate change is the biggest negative threat to health we have in this century. Mental health needs to be integrated into national adaptation plans.”

We couldn’t put it better ourselves. 

Read the GMHAN briefings on climate change and mental health and the environment and mental health.