Content warning: discussion of ableism and health inequality
The Tyee recently published a summary of a BC Centre for Disease Control Environmental Health Services presentation (viewable here) analyzing deaths that occurred this summer during the catastrophic heat dome. The presentation concluded that “people with schizophrenia were at four times higher risk [of death] during the heat dome” – above and beyond people living with cardiovascular conditions, Alzheimer’s, or dementia. This finding is tragic, infuriating, and unacceptable. Unfortunately, for some of us who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, it may not be surprising. People diagnosed with schizophrenia experience high rates of poverty, social isolation, lack of access to medical care, chronic physical illness, interpersonal violence, and other factors that can lead to worse health outcomes, including shorter life expectancy. This is not a result of the individual experiences (e.g. hearing voices) leading to diagnosis. It is a social problem resulting from discrimination and deep inequality. This is a failure of access: to social support, to safe and trustworthy medical care, to proper housing to rest in, to green spaces to cool off. It doesn’t have to be this way.
As the climate crisis progresses, the impacts will be felt disproportionately by the most marginalized in society, including people with psychosocial disabilities, Mad people, voice-hearers, and others. Responding to the challenges posed by extreme weather is a mental health and disability justice issue, and will require building strong communities. Together, we’re resilient. Please look out for one another.
During the heat dome, one volunteer-run project that helped to distribute water and cold drinks to those in need around the Lower Mainland was the Vancouver Community Fridge Project. If you’re interested in learning more about the project or getting involved, click here.