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News: On World Mental Health Day, SLMCCM and partners highlight the connection between people and planet

| January 3, 2024

A broad coalition of stakeholders led by SLMCCM’s Planetary and Global Health Program and Pru Life UK gathered to celebrate World Mental Health Day

In celebration of World Mental Health Day, the Planetary and Global Health Program (PGHP) of the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine-William H. Quasha Memorial (SLMCCM-WHQM) in partnership with insurance company Pru Life UK organized a multistakeholder convening entitled “Healthy minds and hearts for a resilient people and planet” on October 10, 2023 at the PruHouse, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. This event also served as St. Luke’s PGHP’s regional hub activity for the 13th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health (ECTMIH 2023). A short highlights video of the event can be viewed here.

Representatives from academia, civil society, private sector, and government spanning the fields of climate change and mental health attended the afternoon of contemplation, connection, and collaboration on the intersection between climate change and mental health. Other partner organizations include: Connecting Climate Minds, COP2 (Care of People and Planet), Living Laudato Si Philippines, Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology of the Philippine Medical Association, Environmental Psychology Special Interest Group of the Psychological Association of the Philippines, Planetary Health Philippines, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia, Philippine Society of Public Health Physicians, Youth for Mental Health Coalition, and Social Innovation in Health Initiative Philippines.


The program begins with a “Sayaw Bathala” ceremony led by Professor Grace Odal-Devora of the University of the Philippines Manila

“The health of people and that of our planet are inextricably intertwined; in fact, they’re inseparable,” stated Dr. Renzo Guinto, Director of the St. Luke’s PGHP, in his welcome remarks. “Climate change is already affecting our health – not only our physical health, but also the health of our brains and hearts.”

Atty. Emeren Vallente, Pru Life UK Senior Vice President, said about the event’s focus: “Addressing climate change and mental health starts with education and collaboration. We aim to have more of these collaborative sessions with the health sector and industry leaders to encourage dialogues for solutions to help mitigate the effects of climate change.” 

Enriching the program was a series of talks from mental health experts, persons with lived experiences, and climate justice activists, highlighting the mental health effects of climate change and the hope of improving mental health while fighting for climate action. 

“Caring for the planet and each other are radical acts of resistance themselves,” said Ms. Beatrice Tulagan, Associate Director of Network Development of 350.org, in her talk emphasizing the importance of community care in climate justice. She also underlined our shared responsibility of taking care of each other and this planet. “Fixing ourselves or completely healing was never the point. Sharing in each other’s fullness, fighting for justice in our societies, for the planet, and for each other, is the task at hand… We are not alone,” she added.

Dr. Guinto also moderated a panel discussion composed of stakeholders from the mental health and climate change communities, offering different perspectives on various aspects of the climate change-mental health nexus, such as the role of communities, importance of Indigenous knowledge, and challenges in governance and implementation, among others.


Experts from various disciplines and sectors engage in a dynamic panel discussion moderated by Dr. Renzo Guinto

Jom Bagulaya, former Tacloban City Councilor, emphasized the need to look after the mental health of communities affected by calamities. She recounted the challenges faced by Typhoon Yolanda survivors, who were severely affected by the storm surge yet had little to no time to process their grief to focus on survival.

The program ended with a design thinking activity led by Social Innovation in Health Initiative Philippines. Participants were divided into breakout groups to discuss current problems faced by people in relation to climate change and mental health, as well as possible solutions that can address them.


Participants present their outputs during the design thinking activity.

This event highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral collaboration in addressing climate change and improving the mental health state of the Philippines. Creating spaces to facilitate difficult discussions around mental health not only helps normalize its inclusion in everyday conversations, but also provides an avenue for discovering under-examined connections, such as its linkage to climate change, as well as co-designing innovative solutions.

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