A Stakeholder Symposium sponsored by College of Saint Scholastica and the Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership
In 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health, College of St. Scholastica, and Macalester College launched a survey of mental health professionals (MHPs) to assess knowledge, attitudes, and practice behaviors related to climate change impacts on mental health (Hoppe et al., 2022). The survey was completed by more than 500 licensed MHPs currently practicing in Minnesota. Results from the survey indicate that a large majority of MHPs are seeing impacts on the mental health and well-being of their clients that are directly or indirectly related to climate change. Yet, respondents identify multiple barriers and challenges they face in addressing these impacts with clients. By far the most frequently identified barrier was a lack of professional resources and training for MHPs on climate change and mental health. MHPs also expressed a desire to connect with colleagues, both within the mental health profession and across other disciplines, to explore and implement innovative community-based strategies to reduce mental health impacts and foster a sense of “active hope” among clients (Hayes et al., 2018).
One of the core missions of the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership (MCAP) is to advance adaptation leadership, climate resilience actions and cross-disciplinary collaborations to ensure that Minnesota is making needed progress to prepare for our changing climate. Climate-related impacts on mental health have been widely identified as a major issue of concern within public health and other allied disciplines, such as natural resources and agriculture. Collaborating with survey authors and experts in the fields of public health and mental well-being from the College of Saint Scholastica, Macalester College, and the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), MCAP developed a day-long symposium centered on MHPs to address the needs and issues identified in the MHP survey.
The Climate & Community Mental Health symposium occurred virtually on April 1, 2022 with nearly 80 attendees, most were licensed MHPs or otherwise affiliated with the mental health profession (e.g., nonprofit advocate or policymaker). Additional attendees were employed in natural resources, environmental management, or outdoor recreation. These attendees articulated an interest in learning more about how to connect to the mental health field to advance nature-based solutions for individuals impacted by climate change.
- Connect attendees to state and local experts working in the area of climate change and mental health;
- Provide an in-depth overview of the issue, centering perspectives from disproportionately impacted groups within Minnesota;
- Connect MHPs to each other and allies within other disciplines to facilitate peer-to-peer collaborations and information sharing;
- Capture the training and resource needs of MHPs to enable development of curriculum, continuing education courses, assessment/treatment options, and other sources of information to address this gap, and;
- Foster climate leadership within the mental health workforce by incorporating student involvement throughout the planning and delivery of the symposium
Results from participant surveys, as well as the large attendance, demonstrate the success of the Symposium in achieving its core aims and connecting MHPs with resources and community partners to continue advancing solutions to reduce negative mental health impacts from climate change.
Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., & Hodge C. (2014). Beyond storms & droughts: The psychological impacts of climate change. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica.
Hayes, K., Blashki, G., Wiseman, J. et al. Climate change and mental health: risks, impacts and priority actions. Int J Ment Health Syst 12, 28 (2018).
Hoppe, B.O., Prussia, L., Manning, C., Raab, K., Jones-Casey, K. "It's hard to give hope sometimes": Climate change, mental health and the challenges for mental health professionals. Ecopsychology.
This initiative received financial support from the National Institutes of Health via the University of Minnesota’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Additional funding support was provided by the University of Minnesota Climate Adaptation Partnership, the College of St. Scholastica and Macalaster College.