We have reached a point where even listening to stories about climate change on the news can ruin our day. We’ve reached a point of compassion fatigue, and climate change is truly affecting our mental health.
We often focus on how climate change affects physical health, such as certain diseases caused by polluted water, air, and other factors. However, despite our increasing openness about discussing mental health, we don’t always talk about the global trauma caused by climate change. Numerous studies suggest that this global trauma is indeed taking its toll.
Connection Between Climate Change and Mental Health Disorders
Although more psychiatric studies are needed to explore the link between mental health and climate change, a review of over 160 reports published its findings as “The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health: A Systematic Descriptive Review.”
The report, authored by Paolo Cianconi, Sophia Betro, and Luigi Janiri, examined 163 reports to identify any connection between climate change and psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, suicide, aggressive behaviors, despair due to the loss of familiar landscapes resulting from climate change, and changes in weather patterns caused by climate change.
The report states, “Climate can produce significant phenomena with a disastrous impact on human society.”
According to the report, one of the main challenges in addressing this issue is that the mental health effects of climate change take a long time to manifest, which is why we need to address it now. Despite the substantial amount of existing literature on the subject, there is still a serious lack of research.
These papers have introduced new terms that highlight common issues people are facing, such as eco-anxiety, eco-guilt, ecological grief, solastalgia (distress caused by climate change), and biospheric concern, which is concern for the area of the world where life exists.
The experience of millions of people worldwide varies due to climate change, and consequently, the mental effects also differ. Some negative mental health problems are widespread across the global population, while others are regional and specific to areas facing irregular climate change conditions.
The impact of widespread and catastrophic climate emergencies is already affecting some individuals and will likely affect many others in the future. Wildfires, hurricanes, droughts, and rising temperatures are just a few of the problems that will undoubtedly cause serious mental health issues, and they are already doing so.
Traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress are the primary problems faced by populations, and soon, they could affect everyone.
Since climate change is such a far-reaching problem, its effects can be short-term or long-term, direct or indirect, but it influences every aspect of our lives.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that climate change poses one of the most significant risks to global mental health. WHO is urging countries to incorporate substantial mental health support into their climate strategies and plans.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently emphasized the threat we face in a report, highlighting the rise in emotional distress, anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behavior linked to the slow destruction caused by climate change.
The Philippines provides an excellent example of how to address the problem. Following Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the country significantly improved its mental health services and invested millions to support those affected by the disaster.
But first, normalizing the mental health issues created by acceleration of climate change is imperative. We can’t address the problem if we don’t acknowledge it. Ultimately, we need to take climate concerns more seriously,