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Can Climate Change Affect My Mental Health?

In short, yes, climate change can most definitely affect your mental health. For many, climate change is scary and the word “change” implies that your life will change, potentially in a negative way. How you handle it is up to you, and there are methods to help ease your mental anguish when it comes to climate change.

What Is Climate Change? 

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), climate change is “the result of the buildup of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, primarily from the buildup of fossil fuels for energy and other human activities.” These gasses that are trapped in the atmosphere are damaging to human health and life on earth in general, as they slowly heat the earth and cause major environmental changes.

Climate Change and Health

Unfortunately, NIEHS confirms that due to climate change, human health is at risk in several ways:

  • Climate change increases the frequency and severity of heatwaves, which cause heat-related illnesses and deaths in humans. The world has recently experienced some of the hottest summers on record, leading to more deaths.
  • Climate change can manipulate the range of disease-carrying insects like mosquitos, ticks, and fleas. These insects transmit deadly diseases such as West Nile virus, dengue fever, Lyme disease, and malaria.
  • Climate change causes an increase in allergies and lung diseases such as asthma. This is due to the lengthier plant growing seasons (which increase our exposure to pollen), mold, severe storms, and air pollution caused by increased temperatures and humidity.
  • Climate change causes damage to the heart. Poor air quality and increased heat can affect the heart and worsen cardiovascular disease.
  • Climate change causes increased flooding and waterborne illnesses. The heightened sea level is due to hotter temperatures melting the ice caps. This extra water fuels more storms and floods, exposing humans to water that contains harmful bacteria, chemicals, and viruses.
  • Climate change causes more weather events, leading to significant damage and loss of life. Displacement brought on by these weather events causes food shortages, injury, illness, death, and negative effects on mental health.

Climate Change and Mental Health 

Due to the reduction of overall health changes, along with the extreme earth and weather changes some will face, it is likely they will feel the emotional impact as well. Millions of people face displacement due to climate change, overwhelming areas that may not have the resources to support so many extra people. This causes a major strain on communities and the mental health of climate refugees and natives alike.

According to this 2020 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, increased populations of mental illness are located in areas that experience the worst effects of climate change, likely for the reasons listed above. Climate change impacts everyone across the globe one way or another.

If you are suffering mental health effects from climate change, talk to your doctor or a therapist. Relay your fears and discuss how you can incorporate earth-friendly healing into your therapy.

Other Ways You Can Help

One of the best ways to alleviate your mental anguish and stress is to talk about climate change. Express your fears and find small changes you can make to help reduce the effects of climate change on your life.

Here are a few examples:

  • Avoid companies that highly contribute to climate change. There are some companies and industries that overwhelm the earth’s resources – customers can refuse to purchase their products or use their services if they want the pollution to stop. When others ask why you are doing this, simply say that you do not support their impact on the earth.
  • Recycle and reduce your landfill waste. You can do this by using reusable bags at the store instead of plastic bags, using a compost bin for food waste, avoiding single-use wrappers and plastics, and monitoring how much waste you actually produce. Perhaps you can set a goal of one bag of garbage week or any other goal that helps reduce waste.
  • If possible, try walking, biking, scootering, or using another non-fossil-fueled method of getting around. Fossil fuels are one of the largest contributors to climate change. Cars are also big contributors, as well as large factories. Consider investing in an eclectic or hybrid car, which lessens your personal fossil fuel use.

The Initiatives in Environmental Health Science currently being conducted by NIEHS provide more information about how you can directly impact climate change and make a difference in your community and for your mental health.

Climate change is a serious issue that will affect us all in some way. If you are greatly concerned about climate change or live in an area that has already suffered because of it and struggle with mental health issues and/or addiction as a result, there is hope for you. Mental health disorders and substance use disorders often happen at the same time, and there is no shame in admitting that you need help. If climate change is overwhelming you and your mental health is declining, talk to your doctor or call us directly at RECO Intensive. At RECO intensive, we understand how scary climate change can be to some. Our professional staff and experienced alumni can talk you through your fears, evaluate your symptoms, and create a treatment plan that is specifically catered to you. To learn more, call RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533. We want to support you. Let’s get back to a brighter future.

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