Main navigation english

Canadian Public Health Association

November 25, 2020 1:00pm

Psychosocial adaptation to climate change


  • Kabisha Velauthapillai
  • Blake Poland

Moderator: Monica Emode


Psychosocial adaptation to climate change in High River, Alberta: implications for policy and practice


Psychosocial adaptation to climate change-related events remains understudied. We sought to assess how the psychosocial consequences of a major event were addressed via public health responses (e.g., programs, policies, and practices) that aimed to enhance, protect, and promote mental health.


We report on a study of health and social service responses to the long-term mental health impacts of the 2013 Southern Alberta flood, in High River, Alberta. Qualitative research methods included (i) telephone interviews (n = 14) with key informant health and social services leaders, (ii) four focus group sessions with front-line health and social services workers (n = 14), and (iii) semi-structured interviews with a sample of community members (n = 18) who experienced the flood. We conducted a descriptive thematic analysis, with a focus on participants’ perceptions and experiences.


Findings of this study suggest (1) the long-term psychosocial impacts of extreme weather and climate change require sustained recovery interventions rooted in local knowledge and interdisciplinary action; (2) there are unintended consequences related to psychosocial interventions that can incite complex emotions and impact psychosocial recovery; and (3) perceptions of mental health care, among people exposed to climate-related trauma, can guide climate change and mental health response and recovery interventions.


Based on this initial exploration, policy and practice opportunities for public health to enhance psychosocial adaptation to our changing climate are highlighted.