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Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is recovering from bleaching events but still ‘very vulnerable’: Survey

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is recovering from bleaching events but still 'very vulnerable': Survey

According to a survey, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has recovered from storms and bleaching events to record levels. As per officials, though this is great news, the new coral is extremely vulnerable and can quickly tarnish by climate change and other environmental threats. The northern and central parts of the reef have the highest amount of coral cover. This stands true since coral monitoring began, roughly 36 years ago. However, the southern part of the coral cover reef has decreased. The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) scans the reef to check its health, each year. They do so by using divers slowly towed by a boat, as well as aerial surveys. 

The fourth mass bleaching was confirmed in March and since then, AIMS had grave concerns, especially ahead of this year’s study. The chief executive of AIMS, Paul Hardisty said, “In our 36 years of monitoring the condition of the Great Barrier Reef we have not seen bleaching events so close together”.

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 As per the latest results, the reef cover can recover if suitable conditions persist, but acute and severe disturbances are becoming more frequent and longer at the Great Barrier Reef. 

Also read | Australia’s Great Barrier Reef suffers sixth mass bleaching event

A major threat to the Great Barrier Reef is posed by the damaging waves of tropical cyclones and coral-eating crown-of-thorns- starfish. In fact, much of this new coral growth that belongs to a species called Acropora is exposed to this threat. 

Due to its enormous scientific and intrinsic importance, the Great Barrier Reef has been listed on the World Heritage list for 40 years, as one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world. According to UNESCO, the UN’s scientific and cultural body, “not enough” is being done to protect the reef.

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If the authorities that manage the Great Barrier Reef, i.e. the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority are to be believed, the outlook for the icon is “very poor” due to climate change.

Though this news comes as a ray of hope for conserving biodiversity, the challenges that lie ahead are significant.

(With inputs from agencies)


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Anxiety in America: COVID ‘Takes a Backseat’ to Global Events

Anxiety in America: COVID 'Takes a Backseat' to Global Events

With two years of COVID-19 in the rearview mirror, anxiety among US adults has turned instead toward global events, results from the annual Healthy Minds Poll from the American Psychiatric Association (APA) show.

“It’s not surprising that recent events, such as the war in Ukraine, racially motivated mass shootings, or the impacts of climate change, are weighing heavily on Americans’ minds,” APA President Vivian Pender, MD, said in a news release. 

“COVID-19 in a way has taken a backseat, but the pandemic and its mental health effects are very much still with us. It’s important that we are cognizant of that and continue to work to ensure people who need psychiatric care, whether the causes are tied to the pandemic or to other issues, can access it,” Pender added.

Results from this year’s poll were released yesterday during the APA 2022 Annual Meeting.

Record Low COVID Anxiety

The poll was conducted by Morning Consult between April 23-24 and included 2210 adult participants.  

Results showed that anxiety about COVID is at its recorded lowest, with 50% of respondents indicating they are anxious about the pandemic. This was down from 65% in 2021 and from 75% in 2020.

Instead, nearly three quarters (73%) of adults are somewhat or extremely anxious about current events happening around the world, 64% are anxious about keeping themselves or their families safe, and 60% worry about their health in general.

Overall, about one third (32%) reported being more anxious now than last year, 46% reported no change in their anxiety level, and 18% were less anxious.

About one quarter (26%) have spoken with a mental healthcare professional in the past few years, which is down from 34% in 2021. In addition, Hispanic (36%) and Black (35%) adults were more likely to have reached out for help than White (25%) adults.

Despite the US Surgeon General’s recent advisory on the mental health crisis among children, the poll results also showed that Americans are less concerned about their children’s mental health than last year. A total of 41% of parents expressed concern about this topic, which was down from 53% in 2021.

Still, 40% of parents said their children had received help from a mental health professional since the pandemic hit. Of that group, 36% sought help before the pandemic, whereas half said the pandemic had caused mental health issues for their children.

“While the overall level of concern has dropped, still 4 in 10 parents are worried about how their children are doing, and a third are having issues with access to care,” Saul Levin, MD, CEO and medical director of the APA, said in the release.

“This is unacceptable and as a nation, we need to invest in the kind of systems that will ensure any parent who’s worried about their child has access to lifesaving treatment,” Levin added.

Workplace Mental Health

In addition, the poll showed employees often have a tough time getting mental health support from employers, or are hesitant to ask for help.

“What’s troubling about the results of this poll is that even as the pandemic has continued and its mental health effects wear on, fewer employees are reporting that they have access to mental health services,” Pender said. 

“Workplaces need to ensure that they are paying attention to what their employees need, particularly now, and moving away from mental health benefits isn’t the right move,” she added.

About half (48%) of those polled said they can discuss mental health openly and honestly with their supervisor, down from 56% in 2021 and 62% in 2020.

Only about half (52%) said they feel comfortable using mental health services with their current employer, compared with 64% in 2021 and 67% in 2020.

In addition, fewer workers felt their employer is offering sufficient mental health resources and benefits. This year, 53% of workers thought resources and benefits were adequate, which was down from 65% in 2021 and 68% in 2020.

“It’s quite concerning to see that fewer people feel comfortable discussing mental health with a supervisor, at a time when people experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other conditions are on the rise and impact nearly every aspect of work, including productivity, performance, retention, and overall healthcare costs,” Darcy Gruttadaro, JD, director of the APA Foundation’s Center for Workplace Mental Health, said.

“As rates of these conditions rise, we should see more employees knowing about available workplace mental health resources, not less,” Gruttadaro says.

Strong Bipartisan Support 

Perhaps unexpectedly, the poll shows strong support among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents for three APA-backed approaches to improve timely access to mental health care and treatment.

Specifically, about three quarters of those polled support:

  • making it easier to see a mental health professional via telehealth,

  • allowing patients to receive mental health care through a primary care provider,  

  • funding mental health care professionals to work in rural or urban communities that are traditionally underserved.

“We’re in a moment when mental health is a big part of the national conversation, and clearly political party doesn’t matter as much on this issue,” Pender noted. 

“It’s a rare thing in Washington these days to see such a resounding endorsement, but there is strong support for these practical workable solutions that mean more access to mental health care,” she said.

“What you see in this poll is agreement: it’s hard to access mental [health care] but we do have great solutions that could work across party lines,” Levin added.

“Many policymakers, in the administration and in Congress, are already putting these ideas into action, and they should feel encouraged that the public wants to see Congress act on them,” he said.

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2022 Annual Meeting. Released May 22, 2022.

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