Digital solutions for climate change-induced mental health impacts

Mental health can be referred to as a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well, work well and contribute to their communities.

WITH the impacts of climate change increasingly getting more complex, human nature, mind, body and spirit is getting agitated and overwhelmed.

Harnessing the power of technological innovations has, thus, become key in alleviating the impact of climate change on mental health and mental ill-health by shaping the future of African digital healthcare systems.

Mental health can be referred to as a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well, work well and contribute to their communities. Mental ill-health, which is not much talked about, is viewed as a wide range of mental health conditions, disorders that affect one’s mood, thinking and behaviour. Mental ill-health and health conditions are diagnosed by a medical practitioner and can be used to describe both mental health issues and mental illnesses.

Online digital health platforms are, however, increasingly enabling stakeholders with diverse backgrounds to connect with each other, share their knowledge and experiences that have become part of their daily lives. The people’s daily interactions with climate change impacts have taken a toll on their daily work routines, livelihood options and health well-being. As a result of not seeking medical assistance, mental health conditions compound and develop into mental illness. This also emanates from a culture of not consulting health professionals about the state of their mental health as most people choose to seek divine intervention through prophets.

Digital health online platforms are cost effective, easily accessible from one’s mobile phone, laptop or computer. Depending on the nature of health condition at stake and being a member of the online community, consultation fees are less and costs are reduced.

While climate change is the driving force towards mental health issues, communities in developing countries lack knowledge and awareness raising that, climate change impacts are a contributing factor to mental health conditions. Climate change is a driver of mental health through heat waves, diseases, droughts, hunger, malnutrition, pollution and emissions, among others.

Strong advocacy campaigns and networking towards online mental health orientation need to be strengthened so that communities can visualise mental health issues through climate change and technological lenses and less through culture, spiritual or divine lenses.

Online platforms like social media can be utilised to build supportive, engaging and interactive online communities to connect people, foreground climate change and disseminate information that promotes mental health well-being. Companies, organisations and communities need to take advantages of the power of digital mental-health programmes and digital health wellness apps, improve access and online visibility.

This will make digital health-resources the preferred method of reading about climate change, talking about it online and how it impacts on the physical, mental, social and spiritual well-being of people.

In this view, social media technology becomes part of a broader dialogue around people’s mental health and a powerful tool in promoting health well-being by offering enhanced mental health support.

Conditions like depression, anxiety, stress or burnout, which are usually work-related, should also be linked to negative impacts of climate change.

These environmental risks should never be treated in isolation or simply wished away, but should be connected to the psychological impacts they cause to communities on the frontline of climate change. As drought impacts on communities, water resources dwindle and become scarce, extreme weather conditions such as floods and cyclones become the order of the day, while hunger and poverty become part of psycho-social conditions which need to be documented and managed.

Digital health technologies enable communities to take control of their mental health conditions by coming up with interactive, knowledge and information sharing platforms, building relations and partnerships that are long-lasting. Digital health solutions are significant to the youths, women and children as they empower them about the role technology plays in their lives, while at the same time creating more informal, supportive and healthy environments.

By prioritising mental health utilising technological innovations in positive ways, people are likely to achieve and sustain better mental health conditions.

Collaborations among technology experts, mental health professionals, environmentalists, educators, employees, policymakers and the wider communities is, therefore, necessary for easier networking and knowledge sharing.

Students can also come up with digital health networks for learning, knowledge sharing and collaboration, including connecting with fellow students from different institutions across countries or continents. By so doing, students can be exposed to a wide range of resources and opportunities to develop their skills in the field of digital mental health and climate change.

It is significant and paramount that mental health issues be treated in the context of climate change as it may be suicidal to foreground divine interventions, spiritual and witchcraft issues since this will provide wrong treatment for ailments. Professional medical services are key since they are diagnostic not speculative, imaginative and opinionated.

The environment, through increasingly felt and devastating impacts of climate change, can always be the dependable reference point.


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