If the idea of heat waves, floods, drought and fire is weighing heavy on your mind today, you probably saw the new climate change report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It turns out climate change has an even more far-reaching impact than the world we live in; it’s taking a toll on our mental health, too.
The American Health Public Association found that victims of natural disasters face an increased risk of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and suicide. The same report found more than half of adults and 45% of children suffer depression after a natural disaster. The data is based on a case study of Hurricane Katrina, a storm that displaced more than one million people and killed 1,833.
You don’t have to have survived a natural disaster to feel stressed out by climate change though.
Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology at the College of Wooster said, “It’s not just people who are experiencing the direct effects of climate change who are being affected. It’s all of us who are starting to worry, or at least many of us who are starting to worry.”
Clayton believes there are three factors contributing to our collective stress over our changing climate. One is the uncertainty of it all.
“We might know it’s going to get warmer and that there are going to be more storms, but we don’t know where they’re going to be,” Clayton explained.
She also believes more people are starting to recognize the implications for human beings.
Thirdly is what she calls a fundamental psychological aspect.
“One of the things I think we take for granted is, you know, we look around, here’s the world as we’ve learned about it. It’s not going to change in a fundamental way. And what the scientists tell us about climate change is that things are changing in a fundamental way. So, I think that’s just unsettling for people,” Clayton said.
If you’re feeling stress or anxiety about climate change, the AHPA recommended these methods to help ease your mind:
Have an emergency plan and be sure to practice it. Make sure you have plenty of food, water, flashlights, and a first aid kit. If there is a disaster forecast in your area, evacuate ahead of time if possible. Check in on your elderly or vulnerable neighbors during extreme weather.
The report says although mental health conditions are often stigmatized, treatment can be effective. Look into options like counseling or therapy, as well as more informal routes like self-care or spiritual services. Keep a close eye on any signs of behavioral or psychological changes in children including inability to speak, bed-wetting, and stress.
Make an Impact
You can learn more about climate solutions and how to reduce your carbon footprint here.
If you're already living your best green life, don't feel helpless.
"One of the most important things is to talk about it and to, I think, elevate it as a topic of discussion so more people are thinking about it," Clayton said.
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.