May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Rebecca Rehr

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) states, “During May, NAMI joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for policies that support people with mental illness and their families.” 

In 2021, NAMI will continue with the theme “You Are Not Alone” for Mental Health Awareness Month. This has become an incredibly important and resonant message for us in the past year. We have had to stay physically apart to protect each other, which has been difficult for many because it’s almost counterintuitive. Pre-pandemic, we want to show up for each other, literally. We want to BE there for someone, give hugs, and root each other on. But we have had to change what that looks like this year to demonstrate to our loved ones that “you are not alone.” 

That’s a message we also use in climate communications. You are not alone. Majorities of Americans, 74%, are concerned about climate change, with 45% being very concerned. But when you ask those same people whether others around them are concerned, few think others around them are concerned. In fact, it’s about half in that “very concerned” category. What this means is that people feel alone in their concern about climate, which limits their willingness to act. We can be part of climate solutions by talking to others about climate solutions and building the connections between climate, health, and equity.

ecoAmerica and our Climate for Health program have been focused on mental health impacts of climate change, having first collaborated with the American Psychological Association on BEYOND STORMS & DROUGHTS: The Psychological Impacts of Climate Change in 2014 and then with the updated report, Mental Health and Our Changing Climate in 2017

Earlier this week, at the National Health + Climate Forum hosted during the American Climate Leadership Summit, we featured a panel discussion on “Climate Impacts on Mental Health,” which you can watch here:

This month, we’ll be featuring a series of blogs that highlight different aspects and angles of mental health impacted by climate change. Stay tuned for more throughout the month and engage with us on these topics throughout the year, on social media @Climate4Health, and through our Let’s Talk Climate webcast series

Resources 

American Psychological Association, Majority of US Adults Believe Climate Change is Most Important Issue Today

ecoAmerica, Health Surpasses Jobs in Climate Action Support

The Hill, Pandemic and climate solutions will fail without a major focus on mental health

The Journal of Climate Change and Health From anger to action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing 

Outside, The Long-Lasting Mental Health Effects of Wildfires

The Lancet, Climate anxiety in young people: a call to action 

TED Talk, How climate change impacts your mental health

Environmental Health News, People breathing dirty air more likely to have mental health problems 

New Scientist, Stressed about climate change? Eight tips for managing eco-anxiety

Scientific American, Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon

If you need help, seek it out. There’s a national helpline that offers 24/7 treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental or substance use disorders: 800-662-HELP (4357). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255).

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