Environment and Wellbeing: Eco-psychiatry in Sundarban Delta, India

Arabinda N Chowdhury, Arabinda Brahma

Abstract

Wellbeing is a multidimensional practical concept that captures a mix of people’s life circumstances. Categorically wellbeing may be divided into three divisions: physical, mental and social wellbeing. As a construct, it may also be perceived as objective wellbeing (relates to material attributes like the amount of wealth, provision of education and health care and social infrastructure) and subjective wellbeing (how people think and feel about their quality of life). In both, the dimension Environment, more specifically the natural environment plays an important key role- both negative and positive. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), [1] postulates the ecosystem approach as a means of understanding the roles played by land, water and living resources of the environment (ecological resources) in the life of people as well as integrated management of cultural and biological diversity of the land and the people. Ecosystems are defined as the functional units that are in continual dynamic and complex interaction among plants, animals, water bodies, forest, climate and all other non-living issues in the environment. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people are supposed to or actually obtain from the ecosystem. These inter-phase interactional dynamics is the guiding principle of Ecopsychiatry - where environmental issues influence positively or negatively on the mental health of the people (individual) and the community (collective).  Or in other words the impact of environmental specificity (of normal or abnormal state) on the mental health and wellbeing (as also physical and spiritual) of the community or individual. 

The following inter-connected Eco-psychiatric issues that negatively impacted human wellbeing (both physical and mental) are discussed:

  1. Anthropogenic factors and its impact on population density, land distribution, agricultural production, food insecurity and poverty.
  2. Attempts to enhance the crop production in a climatic uncertainty and saline field by pesticide over/incorrect -use - resultant in a high incidence of mortality and morbidity (accidental and deliberate self-harm/suicide) of human and pesticide contamination of the environment.
  3. Nutritional deficiency, animal health and livestock: salinization of water impacted the availability of freshwater fish species, and thus depriving the poor of their protein food source and adversely impacting the income and family integrity.
  4. Risk factors in human-animal conflicts (tiger/ crocodile/snake attacks) and resultant mortality and morbidity: forest exploration for livelihood measures (fishing, timber-honey-crab-collection) leading to death, family disruption, poverty and overuse of eco-resources.
  5. Sea-level change and its impact on environment and wellbeing: the health of human, animals, mangrove vegetation, repeated storm and flood, inundation of salt water in agricultural field (high salinity), flood and destruction of life and property is a recurrent event.
  6. Land erosion and destruction of islands and internal and external migration and displacement of population.
  7. Climate change and its impact on agriculture, food production, eco-resources and health and emergence of vector-born and water-borne diseases.  Cyclone related disaster and it's public/ animal (tiger) health effects on the environment and population health.

Keywords

Sundarban, Eco-psychiatry, Mental Health and Wellbeing, Environment

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