Climate change can have a significant impact on mental health. One of the primary reactions to climate change is eco-anxiety or the anxiety associated with climate change and global warming. Many people, especially young people, think that government leaders are not doing enough to address climate change threats which can fuel eco-anxiety. Research has shown that extreme weather events, such as droughts, wildfires, and floods can lead to:
- psychological distress
- worsening mental health, particularly among those with pre-existing conditions
- increased psychiatric hospitalizations
- increased rates of suicide
Extreme weather events can have indirect adverse consequences such as increases in poverty, unemployment, and homelessness. Individuals who are already vulnerable, such as older individuals and those with psychological vulnerability for anxiety and depression, will have a disproportionately larger influence from climate change. Mental health experts expect that climate change will result in higher rates of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Heatwaves in particular have been associated with increases in violence and suicide possibly related to a combination of agitation and disturbed sleep. There is also emerging evidence that extreme heat is correlated with increased emergency room visits and hospital admissions for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
An effective way to counter the negative psychological effects of climate change is to build resilience. Here are some of the steps to take to build resilience:
- Prepare for an extreme weather event by preparing an emergency kit, identify community resources and make household emergency plans.
- Engage in pro-environmental lifestyle changes such as growing your own food, home composting, eating organic, avoid excess packaging, talk to children about environmental issues, conserve energy and recycle.
- Take a stand by getting involved with organizations and like-minded people to take transform eco-anxiety into eco-action.
- Heal through nature by planting trees, protecting natural habitats and rewilding nature not only helps the planet but also increases health and well-being. Spending two hours in nature has been shown to be as beneficial as having two hours of exercise.
Here is the URL for a list of the top 50 nonprofit organizations working on climate change:https://climatestore.com/take-action/get-involved/non-profit-organizations-working-on-climate-change.
The negative psychological impact of climate change can be offset by adopting practices that build resilience, in ourselves and others. Connecting with like-minded people to work in unison to address climate change dangers for our planet can increase well-being provide needed advocacy to help save our planet and our lives.