Global Warming Drives People Crazy?
"Last year, an anxious, depressed 17-year-old boy was admitted to the psychiatric unit at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne. He was refusing to drink water. Worried about drought related to climate change, the young man was convinced that if he drank, millions of people would die. The Australian doctors wrote the case up as the first known instance of "climate change delusion."
(Insert your Al Gore Jr. joke here.)
"Robert Salo, the psychiatrist who runs the inpatient unit where the boy was treated, has now seen several more patients with psychosis or anxiety disorders focused on climate change, as well as children who are having nightmares about global-warming-related natural disasters."
(Isn't there a pretty big difference between being psychotic and having a nightmare?)
Such anxiety over current events is not a new phenomenon. Worries about contemporary threats, such as nuclear war or AIDS, have historically been woven into the mental illnesses of each generation. But global warming could have a broader and deeper effect on mental health, even if indirectly.
"Climate change could have a real impact on our psyches," says Paul Epstein, the associate director for the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.
(Climate change? Or the oh-so-scary reports on the "climate change crisis"? After all, it's not climate change that caused that 17 year old's refusal to drink water. It's his mental illness, right?)
Over this century, the average global temperature is expected to rise between 1 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius. Glaciers will melt, seas will rise, extremes in precipitation will occur, according to scientists' predictions.
(Make that SOME scientists. But in any case, be afraid. Don't drink the water. Check yourself into the nearest mental hospital.)
There is evidence that extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, cyclones, and hurricanes, can lead to emotional distress, which can trigger such things as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, in which the body's fear and arousal system kicks into overdrive.
(No kidding. But it requires an actual flood, or cyclone, or hurricane, right? Not the imagined kind.)
After Hurricane Katrina, rates of severe mental illness - including depression, PTSD, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and a variety of phobias - doubled, from 6.1 percent to 11.3 percent, among those who lived in affected regions, a 2006 study by the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group said.
(OK, Hurricane Katrina was a real event, though, according to hurricane experts, NOT attributable to global warming. Whatever. Is it surprising that an extra five percent of people who lost their jobs, homes and all their property in the flooding, saw an increase in anxiety disorders? What's this have to do with the teenager in Australia who won't drink any water? Answer: Nothing!)
Rates of mild-to-moderate mental illness also doubled, from 9.7 percent to 19.9 percent.
"After a disaster, people can feel inadequate, like outside forces are taking control of their lives," said Joshua Miller, a professor at the Smith College School for Social Work who responds to disasters worldwide. "They can't see a positive future. They tend to lose hope or become depressed."
(Like outside forces are taking control of their lives? Yeah, well, losing the home and city they've lived in for years will do that to some people.)
Severe disasters also destroy the infrastructure needed to provide mental health care, and forcibly displace people, severing social connections when people need them most, Miller said.
(Blah, blah, blah)
Climate change is expected to create about 200 million environmental refugees by 2050, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the international body established within the United Nations to evaluate causes and consequences of global warming.
(Wait, wait, wait. That number, the 200 million refugees? Does it make any difference whether the temperature goes up 1 degree this century or 6 degrees? Will their be fewer refugees if it's only 1 degree. The history of mankind is the history of people being displaced or killed by environmental disasters from floods, draughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes and tital waves. But won't inflating the likelihood of such disasters cause more mentally-ill 17 year olds to stop drinking water?)
Of course, no one can predict what effect warming will have on our psyches.
(They're all so different don't you know.)
The links between mental illness and the weather can be tenuous or even downright contradictory.
(Now you tell us. But what about links between human activity and global warming? Any chance of any tenuousness there? What about solar activity and cloud cover?)
Depending on which studies you read, suicide is more common, less common, or equally common in hot weather. Ditto the weather.
(Oh, OK. Well, thanks for clarifying that.)