Norvergence: Psychosocial and mental health impacts of climate change

Note: The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the mental health impacts of climate change and also recommends some actions that are necessary to address the consequences.

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“In the tech-saturated world, climate change is the biggest global threat (both physically and mentally).”

Most articles or blog posts that address the climate change problem focuses on its physical health impacts. On the other hand, the overlooked impact of climate change is the mental health problems caused by it.  

Mostly, developing countries fail to monitor, access, and predict the mental health implications that are related to climate change and global warming.

In this article, Norvergence gives a brief overview of the mental health consequences of climate change. 

Environmentalists at Norvergence explored how mental health (or health vulnerability assessment) can be integrated with climate change. According to it, they conclude with some recommendations to support that integration.

How Climate Change Affect Mental Health?

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Source: Quartz

According to many studies and surveys, climate change causes anxiety and stress which proves to act as disturbance elements in the functioning of the human brain. Extreme heat and storms cause depression and anger in many people.

Following are some of the acute impacts of climate change:

Shock and Trauma

Disasters prompted by climate change have a high potential to cause severe psychological trauma. Norvergence found a study that shows, “between 7% and 40 % of all subjects in 36 studies exhibit some type of greater anxiety (also known as psychopathology).”

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

After a disaster hit, PTSD, depression, anxiety, all tend to increase at a faster rate. For example, people living in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, are more prone to suicide and suicidal ideation.

Tensions in Social Relationships

Climate change-induced disasters put a strain on interpersonal interactions, relations with society or community, etc.

In simple words, when a home is damaged or destroyed due to flood, storm, or wildfires; it changes the whole dynamic of social relationships.

Violence and Aggression

High temperature or more heat and aggression are directly proportional to each other. According to a research report presented by Craig Anderson, “With the increase in average temperature, there is a rapid increase in the violence”.

Excessive heat decreases the self-regulation rate and attention and increases negative or hostile thoughts.

Fatalism, Helplessness, Fear, Depression, and Eco-anxiety

A review report published by Van Susteren and Coyle shows that climate change can trigger a number of different emotions including exhaustion, powerlessness, fear, fatalism, etc.

You can read another post here on economic impacts of climate change by Norvergence

Actions to Address Climate Change and Mental Health

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Source: Nexus Media

To slow the speed and magnitude of climate change, more efforts have to be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. From Planetary manifesto to the Paris Accord, governments, policymakers, environmentalists, and even individuals show their intent but it’s too less.

Following are some of the adaption measures listed by the team of Norvergence to address the psychosocial and mental impacts of climate change:

  • Climate change resilience plans that address psychosocial wellbeing.
  • Climate change adaptation planning in the mental health system.
  • Increasing funding for mental health care.
  • Special training for first responders who provide psychological first aid.
  • Cultivate active coping and self-regulation.
  • Boost personal preparedness and build belief in one’s own resilience. 
  • Facilitate social cohesion through community design.
  • Fost optimism and pay special attention to vulnerable populations.

Conclusion

If not taken seriously, the mental health implications caused by climate change can result in mental problems and illness as well as affirmative psychosocial outcomes. Norvergence believes that not only the government but every individual should also realize his/her responsibility if we have to address the issue of mental health properly.

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