There’s an urgent need to prioritise the health of our ecosystems, not only for the preservation of biodiversity, but also as a public health measure of global importance.
By Florica Brahma
In recent years, a growing body of scientific evidence has shed light on the intricate connection between biodiversity and mental health. In marginalised communities, grappling with the aftermath of violent conflicts and environmental degradation, the devastating impacts on their psychological wellbeing is being increasingly studied.
In war-torn regions like Syria and Yemen, the degradation of local ecosystems, with deforestation, soil degradation, and water pollution, has amplified the stress, anxiety, and despair of local communities. Similarly, rampant deforestation and illegal logging in the Amazon rainforest, one of Earth’s richest biodiversity hotspots, have disrupted the social fabric of communities, contributing to growing mental health issues.
Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the link between the loss of biodiversity and the emergence of zoonotic diseases, notes a thought-provoking study. There’s an urgent need to accept the health of our ecosystems as a high priority, not only for the preservation of biodiversity, but also as a public health measure of global importance.
Understanding this interplay between biodiversity and mental health is crucial. Research suggests that exposure to diverse microbiomes present in the soil and air can significantly alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Actively engaging with the natural world through tactile experiences, such as physically touching soil and getting one’s hands dirty, not only holds psychological therapeutic benefits, but also provides neurological nourishment.
An interesting study indicates that engaging in allotment gardening can serve as a pivotal factor in enhancing mental health and may be employed as a proactive measure for maintaining wellbeing. Various sensory experiences, including the sounds of birds, have documented positive impacts on mental wellbeing, fostering relaxation, serenity, and creativity.
As per another study, there is a growing demand among urban planners and practitioners to factor in the additional advantages of green infrastructure and decisions concerning the inclusion of green spaces within cities or improving access to natural areas outside urban centres.
The cumulative impact of these decisions on mental health at the population level could be substantial, necessitating the development of a framework for their evaluation and integration into contemporary decision-making processes, with far-reaching implications for the decades ahead.
It underscores the need for comprehensive conservation efforts that not only protect the planet’s rich biological diversity, but also prioritise the mental wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable in the face of environmental and social challenges.