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The impact of climate change on mental health

climate change

The impact of climate change on mental health

Climate change is no longer an impending threat, but a destructive reality with dreadful future outcomes. Discussions on how climate change affects human physical health abound, not much is said about mental health.

The population segment affected by climate change includes children, elderly people, chronically ill people, persons with disabilities, pregnant women and people with a lower socioeconomic class, migrants, refugees, and homeless persons.

While these people will be affected physically, many of them could suffer mental health as a result of climate change. Mental health in this situation does not necessarily mean mental illness, mental problems, or disorders. It is also the state of mental wellness, emotional resilience, and psychosocial wellbeing.

As public knowledge of climate change’s health consequences continues to expand, mental health is typically left out of the conversation. In some respects, this reflects a broader trend in which mental health has been overlooked in favor of physical health.

People who have been affected by climate change can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD), anxiety, despair, complicated grieving, survivor guilt, vicarious trauma, recovery fatigue, drug misuse, and suicide ideation.

Mental health and climate change: connecting the dots

Changes in climate, such as rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and unending drought, can alter natural landscapes, disrupt food and water resources, alter agricultural conditions, alter land use and habitation, cause financial and relationship stress, increase the risk of violence and aggression, and force entire communities to relocate.

Furthermore, the long-term consequences of climate change may cause despair and hopelessness among individuals who have been affected.

Also, children who are exposed to climate change may experience mental health implications such as anxiety, where they are constantly anticipating the next tragedy. For survivors of climate-related disasters, what comes after- post-traumatic stress disorder- may not be easily curable.

What is most startling is that most people who have been displaced by climate change tend to lose hope; some end up living in these climate-affected locations, and in the long run, they develop suicidal thoughts and may act on them.

More so, we cannot ignore the link between mental health and environmental factors. People’s mental health can be affected if they do not feel safe in their surroundings. It causes people to become paranoid.

According to a recent study published in Psychiatry Research (PR), children exposed to dirty air at age 12 are three to four times more likely to develop depression, dementia, anxiety, and suicide, at age 18 than children exposed to cleaner air at age 12.

Climate change has caused chaos in Africa, causing disasters, conflicts, flooding, droughts, and economic suffering. As a result, individuals get sad and turn to substance misuse to cope. Some resort to criminal activity in order to survive, while others resort to violence in order to obtain a limited quantity of aid.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is also becoming more widespread as people slide further into poverty. When people are faced with poverty and hopelessness, such as when their livestock dies, their crops fail, lose their loved ones, or become indebted, during this period can fall into depression which can lead to suicide.

The unfortunate reality of climate change’s harmful influence on these vulnerable populations is that they all turn out differently. Some grow unconcerned about life, some sink into a profound melancholy, and others wind up wandering the streets in despair, dubbed “crazy.”

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