A literature review conducted by the authors show that while the effects of climate change on mental health have been extensively considered, psychosocial adaptation to climate change-related events remains understudied. Given this, the authors report on a study of health and social service responses to the long-term mental health impacts of the June 19, 2013 Southern Alberta flood, in High River, Alberta. The entire town of High River, consisting of approximately 13,000 people, was ordered to evacuate. The flood resulted in four reported deaths, 5 years of intensive infrastructure rebuilding, and reports of lingering mental health effects. The article notes that while the area is prone to flooding due to its location, information from the IPCC’s fifth assessment report as well as local surveillance shows that climate change is increasing the likelihood, frequency and intensity of flooding events. In order to better understand psychosocial adaptation to the 2013 flooding this article utilizes qualitative research methods including telephone interviews with key informant health and social services leaders, four focus group sessions with front-line health and social services workers, and semi-structured interviews with a sample of community members who experienced the flood. A descriptive thematic analysis, with a focus on participants’ perceptions and experiences, was then conducted.
In 2020, researchers at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health published a study on the health and social service responses to the long-term mental health impacts of the 2013 Southern Alberta flood, in High River, Alberta, including a list of potential actions which could improve future response. The authors gathered information through an array of qualitative research methods including telephone interviews with key informant health and social services leaders, focus group sessions with front-line health and social services workers, and semi structured interviews with a sample of community members. Insight gained through these methods led to a robust understanding of how psychosocial consequences of a major event were addressed via public health response. Challenges related to both short and long-term interventions were identified including unintended negative consequences associated with each. Following analysis of the information gathered, authors produced a number of potential actions which could work to improve perceived intervention shortcomings not only for those in High River but in locations of a similar size and rural context. Actions were organized by type (capacity building, mental health care training, etc.) and were accompanied by a list of potential psychosocial adaptation outcomes. It is suggested that implemented actions be collaborative, cross-disciplinary; informed by community knowledge and attentive to community needs, should they be successful.