Testimony on Behalf of
Psychiatry Climate Alliance
— Jack M. Gorman, MD
Hearing Conducted by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James on Climate Change; Dec. 2017
My name is Jack Gorman. I am a psychiatrist, a resident of the Bronx, and a member of the Psychiatry Climate Alliance. We are an organization of psychiatrists whose mission is to inform the profession and the public about the urgent risks of climate change and the profound impacts on mental health and well-being caused by climate disruption. On behalf of Psychiatry Climate Alliance, I would like to thank Ms. James for inviting us to testify today and for her deep commitment to reversing the effects of climate change.
A major adverse effect of climate change is on our mental health and emotional well-being. We see this in several ways:
- As I am sure you will hear many times today, global warming increases the number and severity of devastating events like floods, storms, and droughts. Each of these is a major cause of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, and many other psychiatric disorders. We saw some of this following Superstorm Sandy in our own communities here in New York.
- Studies show that temperature increases and changes in barometric pressure are associated with worsening psychiatric illness, including increased hospital admissions for people with schizophrenia and increased rates of depression and suicide attempts.
- High temperatures are well-known to be a factor in increased violence, including domestic violence and assaults.
- In addition to the well-known physical effects of air pollution such as worsening asthma, strokes, and cardiovascular disease, air pollution has been linked to cognitive dysfunction and dementia.
- Finally, we want people to be sufficiently concerned about the environment in order to motivate us to take urgently needed action. Unfortunately, that concern is often turned into high levels of anxiety and worry about impending disasters, paralyzing us and demeaning our quality of life. Some have called this EcoAnxiety.
We believe these mental health effects are yet another major set of reasons we must take urgent, collective action on climate change.