Watch: The younger generations are defending our heritage – Dr Cassar

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

The clinical psychologist Dr Anna Cassar explained to Newsbook.com.mt that she admired the younger generations coming forward in defense of Malta’s trees.

Speaking from a field set to become part of the Central Link Project (CLP), she said that she feared that that the older generation had ‘settled into’ and was ‘maybe taking for granted’ all the many changes which had been taking place across the country.

‘I’m hopeful that the younger generation has stepped up and is actually helping to promote the importance of green spaces, to conserve them,’ Dr Cassar said.

The clinical psychologist had previously told Newsbook.com.mt about the importance of trees and nature to mending a number of the mental and physical conditions like depression and heart disease.

Watch: Trees are linked to us physically and psychologically – Dr Cassar

Her interview followed her impassioned post on social media in which she stressed the health hazards of cutting down trees for Malta’s ambitious infrastructure initiative, the Central Link Project.

Central Link Project is a ‘major hazard to our health’ – psychologist

Consistent research

Malta’s National Mental Health Strategy, ‘A Mental Health Strategy for Malta 2020-2030’ calls for, ‘Greater attention needs to be given to the impact of overdevelopment, over-crowdedness and lack of open green spaces on the mental health of the population. More awareness and consideration of mental health is required in urban design and town planning.’

When asked for a response to the passage, Dr Cassar hoped it would be implemented.

She explained that there had been consistent research which showed the impact of living close to green spaces and the well-being. The higher the amount of access to green-space, the greater the level of well-being.

According to the World Health Organisation’s findings, ‘Having access to green spaces can reduce health inequalities, improve well-being, and aid in treatment of mental illness. Some analysis suggests that physical activity in a natural environment can help remedy mild depression and reduce physiological stress indicators.’

Read more:

Central Link Project: Approved

Watch: Vigil takes place for trees and jogging track at Santa Lucija

Watch: Persons tie themselves to trees in protest

Referencing a 2010 Maltese report, Dr Cassar explained that there was a strong correlation between urban and densely populated areas and greater cases of psychosis.

The report entitled, ‘Socio-economic status and population density risk factors for psychosis: prospective incidence study in the Maltese Islands,’ showed that the Southern Harbour district had the highest instance of psychosis, 32.1% per 100,000 people. Following this was the Northern Harbour with 28.3% per 100,000. Gozo and Comino were recorded to have a rate of 25.6% per 100,000. Among these latter numbers were irregular migrants (5%).

Sociological studies describe the Western District, where the incidence of psychosis was lowest, as the district with highest proportion of academic achievers. The Southern Harbour Area, where there was the highest incidence of psychosis, has the most residents in the lowest socio-economic group, with 41% of residents having no schooling (Camilleri, 2001). The Northern Harbour Area has the highest population density and the second highest incidence of psychosis. The Gozo and Comino District has a much lower population density, yet the incidence was similar to that on Malta outside the Harbour Areas. This may be due to easier access to psychiatric services. However, it may also be that people living in this small community are more aware of stigma and discrimination, leading to people waiting longer before seeking medical attention. Symptoms may then be more severe, requiring hospitalisation. High expressed emotion, which is often a feature of closely-knit families and extended families, could also account for the above results. Another explanation may be the smaller genetic pool.’

Cause for listening

When asked about the Transport Minister saying that the around 1,000 people who had appeared at the Ħ’Attard protest last month, was not enough to change tack on CLP, Dr Cassar said it would have been multiplied by those who stayed home.

She said that she hoped the health and well-being of the country would be ‘given a lot of weight and bearing’.

‘1,000 people might sound like a few but they are 1,000 voices and multiplied by more who stayed home and who had not shown up, I would say there is cause for listening to the voices of the people, the brave people who braved the heat who try to save our natural heritage.’