How Climate Change Is Affecting Our Mental Health

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Extreme weather events have harmful effects on mental health. Although most people can do well even if a changing global climate has impacted them, others still experience a range of difficulties.  

Climate change and extreme weather disasters cause anxiety-related responses. It is well-documented that prolonged droughts and flooding have elevated anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.   

To cope with the losses and trauma from a disaster, some people may even use alternative ways to manage their mental health. These options may include essential oils for anxiety relief and a good night’s sleep.

Who Is Affected by Climate Change?  

Some individuals are more vulnerable to the potential effects of climate change, including:

  • Children
  • Elderly
  • Chronically ill people
  • Individuals with cognitive or mobility impairments
  • Pregnant and postpartum women
  • People with mental illnesses
  • Individuals of lower socioeconomic status
  • Migrants 
  • Refugees
  • Homeless 

Individuals diagnosed with mental health conditions are vulnerable to extreme weather events for numerous reasons.

When someone is taking psychiatric medications, those medicines can interfere with their ability to regulate heat. They’ll have difficulty figuring out whether their body temperature rises, usually associated with possible injury and death.

Furthermore, those individuals with mental illnesses are more likely to live in poverty. They may also have co-occurring disorders, making it more challenging for them to adapt to changes.  

Moreover, those diagnosed with severe mental illness may depend on infrastructure, medication supply chains, and services, which may be disrupted when a disaster strikes.      

On the other hand, children are more susceptible to experiencing ongoing trauma-related symptoms following a disaster compared to adults. Separation from caregivers, disruptions in routine, and parental stress in the aftermath of a traumatic event can all contribute to their distress. Children may exhibit physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and even cold and clammy hands as a result of their heightened levels of anxiety and fear.

Nevertheless, children are resilient. Thus, their reactions to disasters may resolve over time. Still, it’s crucial to monitor them due to the possibility of long-term effects of stress associated with extreme weather events.

Aside from children and people with mental health conditions, medical and emergency workers are also at an increased risk of short- and long-term psychological consequences. 

These individuals can be categorized as both responders and victims. They provide care for the public while managing the adverse impacts of a disaster on their own families.

Emergency workers and responders are also exposed to injury and death because of their line of work. Thus, they become more vulnerable to the negative impacts of a disaster. 

Interconnected Effects of Climate Change 

There are many potential long-term impacts of climate change that can have consequences for mental health, including:

  • Population migration
  • Food scarcity
  • Loss of employment and social support
  • Possible increase in illnesses transmitted by insects, such as malaria and Lyme disease
  • Air pollution 

What Can People Do to Cope? 

People may not be able to reverse the course of climate change. However, they can take steps to protect their mental health. 

Acknowledge the Feeling

It’s normal to be anxious or afraid about climate change and its possible effect on one’s life. Therefore, talking with others can make people feel less alone. 

Make a Safety Plan 

Climate change can make a person feel out of control. To regain that control, people need to prepare more and make themselves and their families more resilient.

They can make an emergency plan, prepare their cars, and stock some safety supplies in their houses, such as water, flashlights, and fire extinguishers.

Get Involved in the Community 

Following the Florida hurricane season in 2004 and 2005, a study showed that places with a strong sense of community had fewer cases of mental health distress after the disasters. 

If someone doesn’t have a strong sense of community, they need to get involved with local groups. Working with organizations in their local community strengthens social infrastructure and helps individuals gain control.  

Know the Triggers

A worrier always looks for things to worry about. Thus, individuals must learn their triggers to cut off their anxiety. For some, it could mean that they have to limit their daily news intake.   

Have a Break to Avoid Burnout 

People should practice mindfulness or find different ways to calm themselves down. They can take a walk, go out into nature, or do the things they love.  

Seek Mental Healthcare

If someone’s anxiety about the future or climate distress becomes so consuming that it interferes with their daily activities, they should seek professional help. 

Therapists, mental health experts, and even support groups can help people cope and regain their lives.   

Conclusion  

Climate change is probably one of the most significant challenges of modern times. The mental health implications of this phenomenon can result in cognitive problems that can have a long-term effect on people.

When people take transformative actions, active hope is demonstrated. Therefore, if climate change affects someone’s mental health, they have to build their resilience and mental wellness. 

Building one’s resilience is essential, especially when one feels like things are beyond their control. 

References

  1. Climate Change and Mental Health
  2. Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health – The Lancet 
  3. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Mental Distress Following the 2004 and 2005 Florida Hurricanes | Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness | Cambridge Core
  4. Coping and adapting to climate change | APS
  5. Coping with CLIMATE CHANGE DISTRESS 

 

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Stanley Clark is a community development volunteer and writer. He worked on several commercials, events, and campaigns before becoming a full-time writer in the area of natural health and wellness.

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