Severe weather induced by climate change and other natural disasters have the most immediate effects on mental health in the form of trauma and shock due to personal injury, loss of a loved one, damage or loss of personal property or even loss of livelihood, according to the report.
When people think about climate change, they probably first imagine their effects on the environment, and possibly their physical health. But climate change also has a significant impact on mental health, according to a new report published by the American Association of Psychology and EcoAmerica entitled ‘Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications and Guidance’.
The impacts of climate on mental health are not only relegated to disasters, but there are also significant impacts on mental health due to long-term climate change. Climate change affects agriculture, infrastructure and habitability, which in turn affects occupations and the quality of life and can force people to emigrate. These effects can lead to loss of personal and professional identity, social support structures, a sense of control and autonomy and other impacts on mental health, such as feelings of helplessness, fear and fatalism. High levels of stress and anxiety are also related to effects on physical health, such as a weakened immune system. Concern about the actual or potential impacts of climate change can lead to stress that can accumulate over time and eventually lead to stress-related problems such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders and depression, according to a report.
The key to combating the potential negative psychological effects of climate change, according to the report’s authors, is building resilience. It includes a section dedicated to providing guidance to assist professionals in supporting and promoting the mental health of individuals and communities and to support them in developing psychological resistance. One recommendation is to guide people to support and maintain their social networks.
The report also emphasized that the adoption of environmentally friendly policies and lifestyle choices can have a positive effect on mental health. For example, the choice of cycling or walking to work has been associated with lower levels of stress. If walking or cycling to work is impractical or unsafe, public transport use has been linked to increased community cohesion and reduced symptoms of depression and stress, according to the report. In addition, greater accessibility to parks and other green spaces could benefit mental health, as it has been shown that spending more time in nature reduces stress levels and decreases stress-related illnesses, regardless of socioeconomic status , age or sex.