CARMHA Research Seminars

Environmental Justice and Mental Health after Natural Disasters: A Look at “The Beast”

Presenter: Ms. Emily Carpenter
: November 1, 2019
: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
: SFU Harbour Centre, Room 2050


Substantial increases in depression, anxiety, and PTSD are frequently seen after natural disasters, such as the Fort McMurray fires of 2016 known as “The Beast”. After disasters, both for physical and mental health, certain subgroups often experience worse health outcomes than others. For example, children, those with chronic illnesses, those who have a history of mental illness, and those of low socioeconomic status are amongst those who tend to demonstrate greater rates of mental illness after a natural disaster than the general population. While we know that outcomes are not consistent across a population, there is not currently a way of determining whether these differences in mental health outcomes are unjust.

I suggest that an environmental justice approach can help fill this gap. The Beast caused the largest mandatory evacuation, and was the costliest disaster, in Canadian history, and therefore serves as a relevant case study. In this talk, I will firstly examine what current research has found to be the mental health outcomes of The Beast. Using an environmental justice lens, I will then examine the ethical implications of these outcomes.  

Brief Bio(s)

Emily is currently working on her MSc at Simon Fraser University in the Faculty of Health Sciences and expects to finish in Spring 2020. After completing her BASc (Hons) at the University of Lethbridge, Emily began working with Fraser Health Ethics and Diversity Services.