On 12 November 2022, experts from UNU and other UN organisations discussed the interconnections between climate change and mental health. The official side event at the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP27) focused on enhancing understanding of the multifaceted impacts of climate change and related hazards on mental health and psychosocial well-being.
The event featured experts from the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), the UNU International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), the UNU Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT), and UNU-IAS.
Speakers presented reflections from diverse geographic regions, exploring capacities to integrate support services in climate response strategies. UNU-IAS expert Suneetha Subramanian (Research Fellow) presented on the role of human–nature interactions. She emphasised that nature was a key factor in health interventions, for example by facilitating people’s engagement in healthy activities. Enhancing social-ecological resilience will help to address vulnerabilities, including those related to mental health.
Other speakers highlighted the effectiveness of community-based approaches to mental health, and considered how to address cultural challenges such as stigma and reliance on traditional healing. Key points included the need for gender-sensitive solutions to mitigate mental health problems and more research on impacts for vulnerable groups, including children. A wide-ranging discussion explored issues including gender-responsive approaches, strengthening community systems as a support service, and how to take into account the lived realities of communities.