Dr. Lise Van Susteren, on Climate for Health's leadership circle, is an American psychiatrist with a special interest in the psychological risks posed by global warming. As the climate warms, psychologists are confronted with a very different set of problems than many other mental health challenges. One main concern by Dr. Susteren is that the U.S. mental health care system is not adequately prepared. As ThinkProgress reports below, "The problem is that climate change threatens feelings of self-efficacy — the sense that we can control our destiny." In her co-authored report, Dr. Sesteren suggests that professionals in the mental health fields begin to focus on the broad psychological and social justice threat of climate change and that we can mobilize our communities to action. Using professional skills to work through denial and apathy is only the beginning of the process. The American mental health
community, counselors, trauma specialists and first responders must come up to speed on climate and health overlaps in order to be prepared for what's to come.
By Jeremy Deaton I September 16, 2015
We spend vast amounts of time and personal energy trying to calculate the most urgent threats posed by climate change. Washington, D.C. psychiatrist and climate activist Lise Van Susteren, however, says the most insidious danger may already be upon us. She’s not talking about heat, drought, floods, severe storms, or rising seas. She’s focused on the psychological risks posed by global warming.
Van Susteren has co-authored a report on the psychological effects of climate change that predicts Americans will suffer “depressive and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, substance abuse, suicides, and widespread outbreaks of violence,” in the face of rising temperatures, extreme weather, and scarce resources. Van Susteren and her co-author Kevin Coyle write that counselors and first responders “are not even close to being prepared to handle the scale and intensity of impacts that will arise from the harsher conditions and disasters that global warming will unleash.”
There is currently no organized discipline for the study of the psychological risks of climate change, yet it is already taking a toll on many people who tackle this issue. Surprisingly susceptible are those who might seem to be immune.
“The climate deniers? I always say they‘re really too stressed to hear the truth,” said Van Susteren. “We see this kind of thing in my work all the time, where people who aren’t ready to hear the truth about something will simply say it doesn’t exist.”
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