As climate change and its impacts on our planet and society are still debated, a new report by the Climate Institute of Australia warns against the devastating effects of extreme weather events on communities' mental health.

Taking severe weather events in Australia as a point of focus for the study, the report also blames adverse weather on climate change and says: "Unabated, a more hostile climate will spell a substantial rise in the incidence of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression - all at great personal suffering and, consequently, social and economic cost."

The document, published this week, also warns that up to 20% of affected communities will suffer extremes stress, emotional injury, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.

The study found that as severe weather events in Australia increase in number, "climate change will have many adverse impacts on Australians' health - physical risks, infectious diseases, heat-related ill effects, food safety and nutritional risks, mental health problems and premature deaths.

"The emerging burden of climate-related impacts on community morale and mental health-bereavement, depression, post-event stress disorders, and the tragedy of self-harm - is large, especially in vulnerable rural areas."

The report also points out that those living in "rural areas" of Australia "are already beginning to suffer."

"Across all sectors of the Australian population, mental health (too often the Cinderella of our public health policy) is vulnerable to the stresses and disruptions caused by a changing climate and its environmental and social impacts," the report says.

According to the study, the psychological and emotional strain deriving from events like Hurricane Irene can be felt for months or even years, as it can affect people's ability to work, while self-harm and suicide are reported to rise by an alarming 8% in the aftermath of extreme weather events such as drought and heat waves.

Children are once again amongst the more vulnerable to pre-disaster anxiety and post-trauma illness.

John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, told ABC News most scientists believe there will be even more extreme weather events in the future.

"It's a risk management issue, dealing with the consequences and trying to avoid the worst impacts of climate change," he said.

"The evidence is growing, with studies in EU with a longer database, which is directly linking climate change to the floods in the UK and doing term studies of ocean temperatures".