Mental Health and Climate Changes

Dianova sent a written statement to the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which takes place from 14 to 25 March in New York


Research shows that climate change and related disorders can impair people’s mental health, especially the most vulnerable, leading to increases in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder – Image: United Nations, CSW66

By María Victoria Espada – The sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW66) will be held in a hybrid format from 14-25 March 2022 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The priority theme of CSW66 will be “ Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes“.

Founded in 1946, CSW is the world’s largest policy-making body dedicated exclusively to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. UN Women serves as the secretariat of the commission, supporting all aspects of the commission’s work.

The active participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has been a key element in CSW’s work since its inception. NGOs were influential in shaping the current global policy framework on gender equality and women’s empowerment set out in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. At present, they continue to play a critical role in holding national and international leaders accountable to agreed commitments.

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Similarly, NGOs accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can participate in the annual CSW formal sessions with oral statements, comments or questions. They can also contribute to the debates by submitting written statements in advance, as Dianova International and 147 other NGOs have already done at CSW66 to date.

In line with the priority theme of CSW66, Dianova wanted to shed light on the close relationship between mental health, climate change and environmental disasters. Research suggest that extreme weather events can aggravate the risk of mental illness, and evidence shows that poor mental health can impact the overall well-being of people and communities while reducing their ability to fulfil their potential.

The impact of climate change on mental health however is still not sufficiently taken into account in policy and programme design. Dianova International wants to emphasize that adequate mental health care is essential to enjoy a decent life and achieve sustainable development and therefore calls for:

  • Adopting approaches aimed at reducing and adapting to climate change, and promoting a sustainable and equitable development, especially amongst the most vulnerable populations.
  • Drawing special attention to eco-anxiety and other climate change-related mental health problems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where mental health is relatively low on the development agenda.
  • Considering mental health in climate change impact assessments and environmental disaster mitigation measures, alongside other socio-economic and environmental approaches.
  • Integrating climate change and mental health issues into all development policies and strengthen mental health care systems, especially promotion, prevention and treatment services.
  • Designing gender-responsive climate change policies, programmes and impact assessments and mitigation measures, recognising that the norms, roles and relationships assigned to people could enable or constrain their ability to adapt.
  • Providing locally, nationally and internationally sourced mental health care services that are affordable, accessible and capable of reaching the most vulnerable populations.
  • Expanding women’s decision-making and capacity for action to build their resilience to climate change impacts and include them in disaster management, especially in the most vulnerable areas.
  • Aligning global commitment goals, such as the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the WHO Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, among others, in order to simultaneously advance climate action, mental health, gender equality and empower women and girls, especially the most vulnerable.
  • Recognizing the potential of civil society organisations as partners in the sustainable development process and integrating their expertise and voice in the formulation and implementation of agreements and policies at all levels.