The catastrophic floods in Queensland and New South Wales are having severe mental health and well-being impacts on children, according to health experts in flood affected areas.
Sydney-based child and adolescent psychiatrist and a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia Dr Cybele Dey said there is now strong evidence that the most deadly of climate change-driven extreme weather disasters in Australia, heatwaves, are associated with increased mental distress, mental health hospitalisations, suicide attempts and tragically, deaths from suicide.
“Floods are the next most deadly climate-change driven extreme weather event in Australia,” Dr Dey said.
“Experiencing a life-threatening emergency or where your parent or carer is in danger leads to increased rates of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in children.
“Even for children not in immediate physical danger – not being able to go home, not being able to go to school and seeing the dangers around them is very stressful – especially when children are not able to get the support they need from family and community, who are themselves distressed.”
Dr Dey said children’s mental health is also more at risk for many of the communities affected by flooding now, as they have lived through devastating floods or bushfires before.
“The compound effects of repeated disasters coming closer together on mental health have a worse impact on children and are harder to recover from than when a child experiences one traumatic event,” she said.
And Lennox Head GP and a member of Doctors for the Environment Australia Dr Dan Ewald said people were dealing with mental health issues due to displacement and unfamiliar surroundings in the evacuation centres, and infections from the floodwaters.
“Ballina Hospital shut down and was moved to the High School for a few days, but is back now in the original building,” Dr Ewald said.
“All these situations are complicating health management for staff”.
Dr Dey said Australia can and must reduce fossil fuel use and exports this decade to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.
“The importance of taking this opportunity to protect health cannot be overstated, it’s essential to protect our children’s mental health now and in the future,” she said.
|Dr Dan Ewald and Dr Cybele Dey are both available for further comment. |
Also available for comment on the broader health impacts of climate change, Dr Kim Loo, NSW Chair, DEA For interviews, contact Amelia Pepe on 0429 618 735 or firstname.lastname@example.org