Both the direct and indirect effects of climate change in terms of weather conditions such as cyclones are raising concerns around the world. The human cost of mental health issues is now visible in numerous responses by professional organizations and the papers produced by their meetings, changing how the world’s health organizations once only saw structural damage.
Owing to the increasing risk of climate disruptions and displacement or homelessness, there is a new specialty of climate psychiatry. Healthcare professionals have already noted climate change and what it brings, including conflict.
Cyclones, also known as hurricanes or typhoons in various parts of the globe, are natural catastrophes that pose serious dangers to human life and property. Despite the fact that cyclones’ physical devastation is well-documented, their impact on mental health is occasionally underappreciated. Why are cyclones dangerous to mental health, and what are the scientific findings and studies that shed light on this frequently overlooked component of the cyclone effect?
These changed weather systems bring with them severe meteorological conditions such as powerful winds, heavy rain, and floods, and all of them may be devastating for those who see them. They may see their houses ruined, their cities inundated, or perhaps the deaths of loved ones. Such stressful encounters might result in acute stress responses, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health difficulties.
The change in weather often causes community displacement, forcing people to abandon their homes and seek refuge in temporary accommodations such as evacuation shelters or with family and friends. Relocation, loss of personal items, and worry about the future may all create severe psychological suffering. When they face the hurdles of reconstructing their lives, people may feel powerless, despairing, and anxious. The situations created are so dire that the World Health Organization has developed a policy brief on the interconnections between climate change and mental health issues. They note:
“However, climate change also exacerbates many social and environmental risk factors for mental health and psychosocial problems, and can lead
to emotional distress, the development of new mental health conditions and a worsening situation for people already living with these conditions.
Therefore, in preparing for and responding to this growing emergency, there is an increasing need for the provision of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS).”
WHO notes that for every 100,000 people, there are only thirteen mental health workers, and multiple pathways exist as a means to foster mental health issues in vulnerable populations. The factors are economic, environmental, dangers of health exposure, and contaminated food and potable water resources.
“There is generally consistent evidence supporting the notion that high-amplitude cyclones could significantly increase risks of mental disorders, especially for PTSD, as well as mortality and hospitalizations, but the evidence for other health outcomes, such as chronic diseases (e.g., CVDs, cancer, diabetes), and adverse birth outcomes remains limited or inconsistent.”
The mental health consequences of cyclones and hurricanes may go well beyond the immediate aftermath. Survivors may continue to struggle with mental health issues for months or even years after the occurrence. Its long-term psychological effect may impair everyday functioning, harm relationships, and impede healing attempts.
Cyclones disproportionately harm vulnerable people, such as low-income individuals and communities with limited access to resources and support networks. Existing socioeconomic gaps might worsen mental health issues, since these groups may struggle to deal with the additional costs imposed by cyclones.
Understanding the mental health effects of cyclones is critical for disaster planning and response efforts to protect the overall well-being of impacted people and communities. Treating mental health in the aftermath of cyclones should be an intrinsic aspect of disaster management and recovery programs. While dealing with cyclone-related catastrophes, researchers, policymakers, and healthcare professionals should work together to create comprehensive ways that address both physical and mental health concerns.