W01 – Climate Crisis & Mental Health: A Louder Call to Action for Canadian Psychiatrists

W01 – Climate Crisis & Mental Health: A Louder Call to Action for Canadian Psychiatrists

Thursday, Oct. 27
10:45 – 11:45 (1 hr)
Meeting Room: Birchwood Ballroom (Mezzanine)
Sarah Levitt*, MSc, MD, FRCPC; Daniel Rosenbaum, MD

CanMEDS Roles:

  1. Medical Expert
  2. Health Advocate
  3. Collaborator

At the end of this session, participants will be able to: 1) Discuss the relation between the climate crisis and mental health; 2) Consider the responsibilities and roles of mental health professionals in responding to this crisis; and 3) Apply models that help us formulate psychological distress related to the climate crisis.

The literature is growing on how the climate crisis affects mental health. It is understood that the climate crisis will exacerbate the current global burden of mental illness through adverse effects of extreme weather events, a direct connection between rising temperatures and the pathophysiology of major mental illness, and the increasingly pervasive sense of worry secondary to our rapidly changing environment. Evidence also suggests the most vulnerable members of society, including those with pre-existing mental illness, stand to be most affected by climate change. Many psychiatric professional organizations — including the American Psychiatric Association and the Royal College of Psychiatrists — have begun actively advocating around the climate crisis, recognizing its potential impact on mental health at a population level.

This movement has yet to gain momentum among Canadian psychiatrists, though the CPA is currently approving a position statement on this topic. In this workshop, we encourage participants to explore how the climate crisis affects their clinical practice and to consider how psychiatrists may be uniquely positioned to advocate around the climate crisis and assist their patients with psychiatric symptoms related to the climate crisis. We consider how themes of grief, loss, and hopelessness might be discussed with patients in the context of climate change. We also review the literature on how psychiatric symptoms — particularly anxiety — might be harnessed into advocacy around the climate crisis (thereby alleviating individual distress). Specific attention is paid to how the threat of a changing environment may impact youth mental health. This will be an interactive workshop where clinicians will draw on their experiences to understand how clinical work can spur wider advocacy around this pressing topic.


  1. Coverdale J, Balon R, Beresin EV, et al. Climate change: a call to action for the psychiatric profession. Acad Psychiatry 2018;42:317–23.
  2. Hayes K, Berry P, Ebi KL. Factors influencing the mental health consequences of climate change in Canada. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2019;16:1583–96.