Climate Change is Driving Us Crazy: How Mental Health Plays into the Climate Picture

By path2positive

As the American Psychological Association will tell you, climate change has broad effects on people's health and psychological well-being, due to an increase in the frequency and severity of climate-related natural disasters and other such changes in our environment. These effects include stress, anxiety, depression and a loss of community identity.

"A significant concern is that future generations will respond to climate change–related information with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Children are especially prone to predisaster anxiety and post-trauma illness, which may be due to the direct effects of life-threatening circumstances and separation from family or the consequences of living with a long-term threat," says Dr. Chris Lang in the Psychiatric Times article below.

A joint report from the American Psychological Association and ecoAmerica, entitled Beyond Storms & Droughts: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change, touches upon these mental health impacts and how certain populations and communities will be particularly vulnerable to them. Children are not the only ones that are particularly prone to mental harm. Women and the elderly are also at higher risk for serious and long-lasting psychological effects. Additionally, communities with poor infrastructure may experience worse physical — and consequent psychological — impacts. The report also emphasizes that taking steps to prepare for these effects can lead to other benefits, such as stronger community cohesion and reduced disaster risk. 

Climate Change and Mental Health

Cultural Psychiatry I October 26, 2015

By Chris Lang, MD

Climate change has emerged as a major factor in the escalating patterns of extreme weather conditions. The effects are severe and global, affecting world economies, triggering migrations and wars, and having profound effects on mental and physical health. The consequences are not shared equally. Health inequity and inequality––manifested through poverty, low education levels, lack of food and water resources, and geographical location––all play a major role in determining the extent of these health effects as climate change exacerbates the risks these circumstances pose to a vulnerable population.2

The effects of climate change can be both direct and indirect. Heat waves, drought, storms, and floods have direct consequences. The indirect consequences of climate change include mass migrations, wars over depleted resources, and exacerbation of sectarian tensions. Consistent mental health consequences include trauma, chronic stress, anxiety, depression and exacerbation of comorbid psychopathology, and huge financial costs. Climate change is an emerging threat to the mental health of all of humanity.3

The purpose of this article is to highlight the mental health consequences of global warming. In the article “Extreme Weather Events and Mental Health: Tackling the Psychosocial Challenge,” Jyotsana Shukla4 describes the effects of climate change on mental health under the following categories: direct impact, indirect impact, and impact on children.

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