Support in Mind Scotland’ Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Jim Hume, made the case for addressing climate change at COP26 in Glasgow, on an expert guest panel of the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI).

Climate change is rightly at the top of the political agenda, but with any change in policies and behaviour, the real differences need to come from people and communities. However, governments do have a duty to empower those changes and recognise the impact to mental health and well-being.

Climate change isn’t an issue just for environment, energy and agricultural Directorates. It has an effect on mental health and well-being too. Eco-anxiety has risen as a stressor in our young people, as was evident at demonstrations at COP26 in Glasgow, and affects many of us concerned at the future of this planet we live on. The similarity to the anxiety of the Cold War a few years ago is real.

There is no doubt that climatic events, such as wild fires and flooding damages homes, destroy homes and takes lives. This leads to trauma, damaged mental health of those who are directly affected, as well as to their families and friends. The effect of such an event can last generations in a community.

There is a need to protect our natural and managed environment, so that we can use the opportunities that they hold to benefit the health of our people. Many access their green spaces to benefit their health and wellbeing. We are early in the adoption of social prescribing, where health professionals can prescribe managed access to the environment to improve wellbeing and mental health. Those with lived experience are clear that they look to be supported pre-crisis within their communities in a way bespoke to their needs and accessing the natural and managed environment has a role to play.

Protecting and enhancing our environment with a move to a net zero economy that takes account of mental health and wellbeing is vital for our society and in doing so it must be a just transition that addresses the inequalities many face in Scotland today.

You can watch the COP26 event here.