The severe effects of climate change on the weather can cause trauma or shock due to the loss of property, livelihood, and loved ones. While victims of natural disasters do eventually bounce back and rebuild, the experience can impact their long-term mental health.
A new report explores the impact of climate change on mental and emotional health. There is already a lot of literature on the effects of climate change on the environment, infrastructure, and economy. However, this may be the first study on how climate change impacts mental health.
Researchers have found that climate change can lead to extreme or severe weather events and natural disasters. Natural disasters that come about due to climate change can lead to the destruction of property and loss of life. People who experience these natural disasters first-hand can thus experience intense negative emotions. Though the initial intensity of these feelings subside eventually, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can set in. People can also have suicidal ideation and actually commit suicide. They can also develop anxiety disorders and depression.
Of course, natural disasters aren't the only climate change-induced occurrences that can impact mental health. Even the subtler and more insidious effects can cause as much mental and emotional damage. The effects of climate change on agriculture and overall quality of life may lead to significant life changes.
People may need to migrate or abandon their occupation if they rely on agriculture. Migration can lead to the loss of long-term social support networks as well as high levels of stress. Stress, in turn, can lead to physical problems and even substance abuse.
However, individuals are not the only ones who experience the full brunt of the effects of climate change. Even entire communities, especially disadvantaged ones, face problems due to climate change. Communities dependent upon natural resources can experience more severe impacts on their collective mental health. The long-term and short-term impacts of climate change can also lead to hostility within communities. This can negatively impact the cohesion of these communities and their social structures.
Of course, there is hope in spite of all these bleak possibilities. The authors of the report recommend developing psychological resilience to the impacts of climate change. One way to do this is to have professionals help communities maintain their established social support networks. This way, they can maintain their links to the community, and the community will be able to bounce back as a whole.
The authors of the report also recommend adopting an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Communities, towns, and cities, can also adopt more environmentally friendly policies to mitigate the effects of climate change. For example, towns and cities can allot more areas for green spaces. Fostering a closer connection to nature has been found to have positive effects on mental health. This, way people of all social and economic status can access resources that improve their well-being. Though climate change may have severe impacts, people can still reduce these impacts and bounce back from negative effects.
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