Feds Join Conference on ‘Psychosocial Resilience’ to Climate Change – Causes Depression, PTSD, Suicide, and Spiritual Problems

By Penny Starr | November 4, 2016 | 3:26pm EDT
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(CNSNews.com) – Several federal officials spoke on Friday at a conference in Washington, D.C., organized by The Resource Innovation Group, an Oregon-based organization that promotes the idea that climate change can cause a range of human health problems, including PTSD, depression and suicide and that human behavior should be changed to avoid these problems.

CNSNews.com’s request to cover the remarks at the conference by Jeff Stiefel, executive director for climate change and health resilience at the Homeland Security Department; Rob Tosatto, director of the HHS Medical Reserve Corps Program; and Darrin Donato, senior policy analyst and resilience policy coordinator for the Office of the Assistant HHS Secretary for Preparedness and Response, was denied, but the literature from the conference and the organization’s website provides details about the goals of the conference.

The “International Conference on Building Personal and Psychosocial Resilience for Climate Change” asks this question on the website promoting the conference:

“Why Build Personal and Psycho-Social-Spiritual Resilience for Climate Change?”

Then it answers the question:

“The many acute traumas and chronic toxic stresses generated by climate change are generating rising levels of severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, suicides, and other mental health problems in the U.S. and globally. They are also causing increased hopelessness, helplessness, and other spiritual problems. And, they are producing a boatload of psychosocial maladies including crime, interpersonal aggression, violence, and more.

These harmful human reactions undermine the health, safety, and material and spiritual wellbeing of individuals, families, organizations, communities, and entire societies. Because dysregulated people exist in a internally-focused self-protective survival mode, the adverse human reactions also threaten to delay or completely scuttle efforts to cut carbon emissions, adapt to warming, and reduce the climate crisis to manageable levels. Left unaddressed, these problems will worsen as global temperatures rise.

Yet, most practitioners focused on climate solutions fail to grasp these risks and remain focused on emission reductions and adapting physical infrastructure and natural resources to warmer temperatures. Most mental health, public health, emergency response, and related professionals remain focused on treating people during or after discrete disasters, and fail to acknowledge the risk that rising global temperatures will overwhelm disaster response capacities, while also failing to help people deal with the rising number of economic, social, psycho-emotional, and spiritual toxic stresses directly or indirectly generated by climate change. 

Research and experience shows, however, that preventative personal and psychosocial resilience building initiatives can minimize adverse human reactions to shocks and toxic stresses such as those generated by climate change, and help resolve them when they do occur. Equally important is that people can learn how use climate adversities as transformational catalysts to engage in activities that enhance the wellbeing of others, the natural environment, and themselves.  

Despite these benefits, comprehensive preventative personal and psychosocial resilience building initiatives are missing from the U.S. and global response to climate change. These initiatives can expand knowledge, teach skills, and enact policies to help individuals, organizations, and communities learn how to constructively cope with climate change-enhanced adversities and use them as transformational catalysts to learn, grow, and thrive. This conference is the first to focus exclusively on these critical issues.”

The website said attendees to the conference will learn:

  • The personal mental health, spiritual, and psychosocial impacts of climate change on youth, adolescents, adults, and why major preventative human resilience-building policies and programs are urgently needed to address the risks.
  • Methods, policies, and benefits of building personal resilience for climate change-enhanced traumas and toxic stresses.
  • Methods, policies, and benefits of building psychosocial resilience within all types of groups and organizations for climate change-enhanced traumas and toxic stresses.
  • Methods, policies, and benefits of building psychosocial resilience within communities for climate change-enhanced traumas and toxic stresses.

The Resource Innovation Group website states: “The Resource Innovation Group (TRIG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization affiliated with the Sustainability Institute at Willamette University. TRIG's mission is to address the human causes, impacts, and solutions to complex socio-economic-ecological challenges, with a special emphasis on climate change. By a decision of the TRIG Board of Directors in 2013, TRIG has decided to focus primarily on building psychosocial resilience for climate change-enhanced traumas and stresses within individuals, organizations, communities, and society.”

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