Society and Workplace Diversity Research Group

Climate Change, Population Displacement and Mental Health: The Next Wave. Guest lecture by Lawrence Palinkas

The Society and Workplace Diversity Research Group (SAW) has the pleasure of inviting you to a guest lecture with Dr. Lawrence Palinkas from University of Southern California. The lecture is associated with the launch of the project Clinical Encounters with Refugee Patients suffering from Mental health Problems funded by the Norwegian Research Council.

Hail lay on the human palm. Black and white photo

The lecture is entitled:

Climate Change, Population Displacement and Mental Health: The Next Wave

The lecture will take place on Thursday April 19th at 11:15 in room 520, Christies Gate 12.



At the present time, 500 million to 600 million people – nearly 10% of the world's population – are at risk from displacement due to increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and natural disasters resulting from the disruption of seasonal weather patterns such as monsoons. This presentation focuses specifically on the health issues facing this new wave of immigrants, better known as “ecological refugees”, how these issues are likely to impact existing health infrastructure and service systems worldwide, and how we might begin to address these issues and impacts.  Two specific patterns of population displacement will occur as a result of climate change: short-term - related to natural disasters, and long-term - related to long-term changes in environment. Natural disasters disrupt physical, social, and communication infrastructures, diminish coping resources and social supports, drain or deplete household assets, and create temporary and long-term threats to physical and mental health and safety that interfere with help-seeking and evacuation.  People exposed to such events are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse. Mental health effects associated with long-term climate change can be expected to resemble those of other groups of refugees during early phases of flight and displacement, including depression and anxiety resulting from resource loss and post-traumatic stress resulting from exposure to civil conflicts. Addressing these health effects will require greater efforts to adapt and evaluate existing evidence-based interventions or develop new interventions for use with different populations; scale up and sustain such interventions; and integrating existing and proposed local, state, national and international refugee relief and resettlement efforts.


About Lawrence Palinkas:
LAWRENCE PALINKAS is the Albert G. and Frances Lomas Feldman Professor of Social Policy and Health and Chair of the Department of Children, Youth and Families in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. He also holds secondary appointments as Professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Preventive Medicine at USC.

A medical anthropologist, his primary areas of expertise lie within health services research, preventive medicine, and cross-cultural medicine. Dr. Palinkas is particularly interested in behavioral health, global health and health disparities, implementation science, community-based participatory research, and the sociocultural and environmental determinants of health and health-related behavior with a focus on disease prevention and health promotion. His research has included studies of psychosocial adaptation to extreme environments and manmade disasters; mental health needs of older adults; cultural explanatory models of mental illness and service utilization; HIV and substance abuse prevention in Mexico; evaluation of academic-community research practice partnerships; and the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices for delivery of mental health services to children, adolescents and underserved populations. This work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, NASA, NIH, the MacArthur Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation. Current research encompasses implementation of child and adolescent mental health services, sustainment of prevention programs and initiatives and effects of climate change on vulnerable populations. He also provides expertise to students and colleagues in the use of qualitative and mixed research methods.

Among his scholarly achievements are the Antarctic Service Medal by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Navy in 1989; deputy chief officer of the Life Sciences Standing Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research in 2002; chair of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's External Advisory Council in 2003; co-lead of the Social Work Grand Challenge on Strengthening Social Responses to Environmental Change; and membership on committees of the National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Palinkas is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Social Welfare and Social Work, a fellow of the Society for Social Work and Research, American Anthropological Association and Society for Applied Anthropology, and the author of more than 380 publications.