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#FactFriday: Climate change can affect mental health

mental health - climateaction

#FactFriday: Climate change can affect mental health

Hello readers. Welcome to #FactFriday on CleanbuildVoices!

People all around the world are grappling with the impacts of climate change on mental health – from post-disaster traumas to anxiety about the future. Little wonder terms like ‘eco-anxiety‘ now dominate climate-related conversations.

Climate change can affect mental health in two distinct but connected ways. Firstly, people can experience psychological responses to direct exposure to the consequences of climate change, such as living through a disaster.

Secondly, through indirect exposure – such as watching a disaster unfold from afar or reading about a dire new scientific report.

On the first factor, the most common psychological responses after a disaster are insomnia, losing interest in normal activities, irritability, substance abuse, etc.

Though distress reactions may fade and heal with time for some people, for others, they may worsen if not acknowledged and treated and can lead to significant and prolonged mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and thoughts of suicide.

No doubt, disasters affect individuals’ mental health differently, but certain factors make people more vulnerable to suffering from the psychological impacts of natural disasters, especially people with lower socioeconomic status who are likely to live in risk-prone areas and have less access to health care after a disaster.

Also, research has linked extreme weather events to more subtle psychological effects – revealing that people are more likely to behave irritably, aggressively, and even violently when exposed to extreme heat.

On the second factor, people do not have to live through a natural disaster to suffer the mental health consequences of climate change. Watching or reading about climate change and natural disasters on the news – or hearing from friends and family members who are experiencing extreme weather – can cause anxiety, depression, secondary trauma, and other psychological conditions.

In fact, indirect exposure to disasters and climate news is the main cause of eco-anxiety.

Also, those who spend a lot of time thinking about climate change, such as climate scientists, are also at risk.

Stressed out by climate problems? Check out these tips for overcoming eco-anxiety

Climate change is here and its effects are increasingly becoming present and evident in everyday life.

It is imperative that we have reliable networks and tools to turn to when the feeling of helplessness towards the event of the climate overwhelms us.

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