Improving the response to the psychosocial needs of individuals and communities affected by climate hazards in Eastern Quebec regions
Update of useful resources for characterizing and analyzing communities from the point of view of vulnerabilities to the psychosocial impacts of extreme weather events.
In Quebec, the emergency services provided before or during disasters (preparation and response phases) are recognized as effective in meeting the needs of affected populations. However, the approaches are incomplete when it comes to the recovery phase, which begins in the days or weeks following exposure to the hazard. This situation is particularly worrying in areas far from major urban centres, where there are usually fewer services available.
This project focuses on psychosocial response processes in Eastern Quebec communities exposed to hazards such as coastal erosion and extreme weather events, which will become more frequent with climate change.
To prevent or reduce mental health problems and psychosocial and social impacts associated with disasters caused by natural climate hazards;
To foster the effective implementation of approaches that will prevent or mitigate the effects of these impacts, and maximize the capacities of individuals and communities;
To propose ways to improve and refine existing public policies and tools, including emergency plans (Mission Santé), training modules and clinical recommendations.
Component 1 | A literature review to identify psychosocial impacts in the context of extreme weather events and factors likely to influence vulnerability to these impacts in rural areas;
Component 2 | Case studies to validate the literature and identify the needs of the community;
Component 3 | Development of tools promoting intersectorality and interdisciplinarity to improve clinical and community actions to reduce the psychosocial impacts of extreme weather events;
Component 4 | Development of planning aids to prevent or reduce psychosocial and mental health impacts, as well as their vulnerability factors.
The results of the literature review demonstrate that the psychosocial impacts are of two types: individual and collective. At the individual level, there are effects on habits and quality of life, effects on psychological well-being, and mental disorders. At the collective level, there are changes in the living environment, modulations in the relationship with the surroundings, effects on the quality of social and family relationships, and controversies related to the management of the crisis or the recovery.
The case studies carried out, dealing with three climate hazards (flooding in Gaspé, coastal erosion in Percé and forest fires in Baie-Johan-Beetz), allowed us to identify some constants, including the importance of considering contextual elements as well as socio-historical contexts when implementing adaptation measures, in order to fully understand the impacts experienced. Climate change is not the only issue facing municipal governance; latent or pre-existing conflicts as well as budgets can also have an impact on the way in which climate situations are handled.
In addition, the municipalities under study impact their own development and establish their own socio-community organization, both formally and informally. This is an essential aspect of the ability to deal with extreme weather events and their aftermath. In terms of responding to events, the measures put in place have not turned out to be long-term enough to allow for a real recovery and are often cobbled together by the main stakeholders.
Creation of two tools
The literature review and the Quebec case studies led to the development of two tools.
The first is a toolkit of clinical and community interventions aimed at reducing psychosocial impacts on individuals and communities. It contains 23 interventions for each of the phases of a disaster, with particular attention given to prevention (green circle in Figure 1). It is organized so as to promote the integration of community-based approaches with those of the formal care system.
Figure 1 Models of integrated approaches for reducing the impacts of extreme weather events.
The second tool is a planning grid allowing municipal authorities to work with their intersectoral partners to identify community vulnerabilities to psychosocial impacts related to extreme weather events caused by climate change, as well as appropriate solutions.
Table 1. Factors influencing vulnerabilities to psychosocial impacts of extreme weather events in rural areas.
Benefits for adaptation
Retombées pour l'adaptation
Update of useful resources for characterizing and analyzing communities from the point of view of vulnerabilities to the psychosocial impacts of extreme weather events
Improved community and municipal capacities to manage community recovery in the event of a climate disaster
Increased awareness among social and health professionals of the psychosocial impacts of climate change and the expected roles
Increased awareness among leaders of the need for intersectoral action to deal with climate change by means of useful intervention and planning tools
Improvement of the continuum of emergency measures and health and psychosocial response capacities in rural areas in the event of a disaster related to extreme weather events, in order to limit psychosocial impacts
Institut national de santé publique du Québec
Laboratoire de recherche sur la santé en région (LASER)
Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM)
Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB-Paris)
Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux du Bas-Saint-Laurent