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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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1.1 Geography

The connection between the geography of a country and the effect on children’s mental health may not always be entirely obvious. However, the climate of a country can make the environment range from either ‘hostile’ to ‘welcoming’. For example, in countries with extreme climates, such as some tropical countries, the climate predisposes the country to be the home of many diseases and parasites, both of which can negatively impact on children’s health. This in turn can affect quality of life. The impact of disease and more extreme climates on long-term health and wellbeing is multifaceted and interconnected with poverty, access to medical care and clean water. All of this can impact negatively on wellbeing and predispose children to compromised mental health.

Natural disasters have also been shown to have an impact on children’s mental health. Research following the earthquakes that affected New Zealand in 2010 and 2011 has shown that the stress experienced as a consequence of the aftermath impacted on children’s mental health.

This is a photograph of a damaged building.
Figure 1 Damage to building in Christchurch earthquake

New Zealand media reported research findings showing that some children demonstrated behaviour disturbance and increased levels of anxiety and depression following the disasters (McCrone, 2014). There has also been a reported spike in adolescent suicides linked to the longer-term impact of the trauma experienced in earlier childhood because of the earthquakes. These examples highlight the link between geography and how the environment can impact on children’s wellbeing. It is not surprising that children who live in geographically hostile environments or in countries which are prone to natural disasters can become anxious and develop mental health issues.

Extremes in climate and natural disasters are just two examples of how the geography of a country can impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. As you explored in Session 1, how much can be done to reduce the impact of geographical factors on children’s mental health and wellbeing will partly depend on the resources that are within the systems around the child.