Saturday, October 24, 2009

If you think I'm crazy, you should see the other guy

Given the long precedent set by (some, I said some, alright?!) psychologists of screwing things up royally, it has previously been put forward that climate change denial is a mental disease.
Luckily for global mental health, the head-shrinkers at the Bristol University of the West of England were on to it, and organised a conference to examine why the denialist response to the AGW threat is (and I quote) "tragically inadequate".

Not content to leave it at throwing around the adjective "tragic", lead organiser and all 'round caring guy Professor Paul Hoggett said:
"We will examine denial from a variety of different perspectives: as the product of addiction to consumption, as the outcome of diffusion of responsibility and the idea that someone else will sort it out, and as the consequence of living in a perverse culture (that) encourages collusion, complacency (and) irresponsibility."

Ever since signing a US visa waiver many years ago, I have wondered what "moral turpitude" is. I mean, I ticked the "No" box when asked if I had engaged in activities thereof, but deep down I always wondered. Maybe I had engaged in acts of moral turpitude and not known it. Do you think "collusion, complacency and irresponsibility" fits the definition? Please tell me it fits...

Bristol UWE is the same well adjusted mob that is helping to bring us the nowhereisland project, as
reviewed by Anthony Watts at his excellent blog.

Anyway, no news yet whether climate change denial will find its way into the DSM -V (thats the psych diagnosis bible for the uninitiated), but given that they included homosexuality as a mental illness of one form or another up until the 1980's, I'm not holding my breath.

Another related mental illness that may make its way into the DSM is "Climate Change Delusion" as incorporated into a major depressive disorder with psychotic features. First reported in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, psychiatric clinicians at the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne treated a young man with apocalyptic delusions concerning climate change, that culminated in severe emotional distress and suicidal ideation and behaviour.

"The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of ‘millions of people’ through exhaustion of water supplies. He quoted ‘internet research’ to substantiate this. The patient described that ‘I feel guilty about it’, had attempted to stop drinking and had been checking for leaking taps in his home to prevent the catastrophe. He was unable to acknowledge that the belief was unreasonable when challenged."

Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink: Climate change delusion. Wolf J and Salo R.

Since this initial presentation, the Royal Children's reported more cases of climate change being incorporated into delusions, and an increasing number of children presenting with nightmares of apocalyptic climate change scenarios. Perhaps the inevitable upshot of this issue discussed previously.

Whilst the young man in question undeniably suffered from an acute mental illness, it is telling that the form his psychosis took is not that far removed from what is commonly propagated in the media, including a palpable sense of personal guilt. In the words of the authors:

"Clinicians caring for psychotic patients have long noted that delusional systems are determined by ideas and beliefs to which the individual has been exposed."

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