Following the success of the first regional dialogue for Connecting Climate Minds, the Planetary and Global Health Program (PGHP) of the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM-WHQM) continued the conversation by organizing the second regional dialogue for the Eastern and Southeastern Asia region last October 24, 2023.
Connecting Climate Minds (CCM) is a global initiative dedicated to developing research and action agendas while building robust communities of practice to tackle the intertwined issues of climate and mental health. The St. Luke’s PGHP serves as the project’s regional community convener for the Eastern and Southeastern Asian (ESEA) region.
The primary objectives of the regional dialogue include shaping the regional research and action agenda for the climate-mental health nexus, as well as fostering connections among individuals from diverse geographies, disciplines, and sectors who are passionately committed to addressing this critical issue. Throughout the event, attendees from academia, government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society, youth networks, local communities, and vulnerable groups actively engaged in meaningful dialogue. They shared expertise, exchanged narratives, and discussed firsthand experiences, shedding light on the mental health implications of climate change in their specific contexts.
Participants from across Eastern and Southeastern Asia at the second regional dialogue of Connecting Climate Minds held last October 24, 2023
To support the research priorities that were identified through the first regional dialogue, the second dialogue not only refined these priorities but also evaluated the barriers to implementation and action. Participants also explored best practices that may help ensure that these research priorities are effectively executed while meaningfully engaging stakeholders across all levels. With over 50 attendees from different countries of the region, the virtual dialogue featured interactive plenary activities such as spectrum mapping, which revealed the diversity of perspectives around concepts such as mental health, resilience, and climate justice.
Attendees at the Eastern and Southeastern Asia Regional Dialogue shared their thoughts during the spectrum mapping plenary activity, showing the diversity of perspectives across the region.
Moreover, the dialogue also included dynamic breakout sessions, which focused on creating knowledge for research and fostering evidence-based policy and action. The breakout sessions featured collaborative discussions for generating innovative solutions to address this critical intersection.
“Climate change and mental health should be part of society’s conversation, especially in our region where the impacts of climate change are felt so keenly,” remarked Dr. Gail Co, research fellow at the St. Luke’s PGHP and CCM Eastern and South-Eastern Asia project coordinator. “This second regional dialogue was a transformative experience for all, which helped forge and sustain partnerships to address these urgent issues moving forward,” she added.
Towards the end of the plenary session, participants were invited to reflect on their commitment by simultaneously sharing an ‘I will’ statement in the chat. Dr. Madihah Puaad, Medical Officer of Angsana Health in Malaysia and one of the project’s Lived Experience Adviser, expressed: “I will continue sharing my experiences facing adverse climate events with the hope of preventing others from going through the same mental and moral distress, knowing we are not alone in this.”
Participants were subsequently prompted to use the statement ‘Out of this community, I would like to see…’ to articulate their aspirations and visions for this growing community. “Out of this community, I would like to see a collective commitment towards spearheading innovative solutions that address the impact of climate change, while fostering a nurturing environment where mental health takes precedence,” stated Dr. Dianne Cunanan, a practicing clinical physician in the Philippines and St. Luke’s PGHP research fellow.
Through vibrant discussions, insightful perspectives, and the incubation of innovative solutions, this event transcended boundaries, fostering a stronger sense of unity among participants across the region. The dialogue will hopefully pave the way for transformative initiatives at the intersection of mental health and climate change, in order to achieve a more sustainable, inclusive, and mentally resilient world for all.