Climate change study on mental health important, says consultant

Tuesday July 09, 2019 Written by Published in Weather
This dramatic photo, taken from the courthouse, shows the ferocity of one of five cyclones that hit Rarotonga in 2005. 18071735 This dramatic photo, taken from the courthouse, shows the ferocity of one of five cyclones that hit Rarotonga in 2005. 18071735

The grief and loss of loved ones and losing one’s home because of climate change is real, says development consultant Dr Christina Newport.

Newport, believes a new half-million dollar study to strengthen and prepare Cook Islanders mentally for the effects of climate change is well worth pursuing.

She made this remarks in response to a three-year study being conducted in Cook Islands, Niue and New Zealand looking at the mental trauma people face fleeing their island homes or being forced to relocate.

The study is led by Auckland University’s Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath.

Newport says: “As we have seen with effects of cyclones – Martin, five cyclones in 2005 and Pat in 2010 – the grief and loss associated with losing one’s home, possessions, livelihoods and the loss of loved ones is real.”

Climate change-related research into mental health interventions is worth pursuing when it comes to cultural security and social identities, as the study will greatly build on the strengths of Cook Islands kinship networks.

Newport says informing government policy and improving services as a result of climate change related trauma is important.

“This is particularly so when individuals, families and whole communities decide or are forced to move from their home, for the short or long term because their home is uninhabitable due to the increasing effects of cyclones, sea level rise, coastal erosion, drought and rainfall variability. 

“Such effects also add to the burden of current challenges that people already face.”

Newport adds: “Indigenous perspectives are certainly worth pursuing especially if it means better tailored and resourced assistance.”

She says while networks and different organisations rally to provide immediate support and safety, it is important to build on what we already know about what people experience and need. 

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