How Climate Change Can Affect Your Mental HealthPosted on by
Have you ever felt anxious about the future of our planet or stressed about how climate change could affect your life? If so, you’re not alone. Climate change affects more than just our physical health—it also affects our mental health.
Here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we recognize that mental health is an important part of our well-being. For Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re drawing attention to climate change and the steps communities can take to promote mental health.
“Extreme weather events and climate change can affect people’s mental health in several ways. Research has demonstrated high levels of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders among people after hurricanes, floods, heat waves, and wildfires,” said Paul Schramm, the climate science team lead at CDC’s Climate and Health Program. “However, there are steps communities can take to promote mental health resilience. It’s important to know how climate change affects mental health and what communities can do to plan proactively.”
Climate change can contribute to short-term and long-term mental health conditions. Possible effects include
- Trauma, grief, or sleep disorders after extreme weather
- Stress or depression due to changes in food access and livelihoods
- Mood disorders or aggressive behavior in areas with rising surface temperatures
- Feelings of helplessness or anxiety about the future
Some people may be at higher risk for these effects, including those who have other mental illnesses. People who are low-income could face compounding mental health stressors such as food insecurity or limited access to healthcare. Indigenous populations, farmers, or others who rely on land could also be at high risk if they’re displaced.
Public health officials and local organizations can take several steps to promote mental health. Strategies include
- Involving community members and mental health professionals in climate action planning: This provides people with a reassuring sense of control over climate change and encourages communities to address mental health concerns.
- Increasing access to social support and resources after disasters: Healthcare organizations could increase access to counseling and therapy after floods, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events. Community organizations can organize social support groups.
- Learning to communicate with the public about mental health: After a stressful event, people may reach out for help. Public health leaders should prepare to direct communities to mental health resources.
CDC’s Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative is currently supporting 11 grantees in adapting to the health effects of climate change. Grantees use the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) framework to identify local climate effects, develop adaptation plans, and evaluate progress.
Some CDC grantees have addressed the mental health effects of climate change. For example, the Oregon Health Authority created digital stories that feature mental health professionals and community members. The stories show how extreme events like wildfires can increase mental health risks and the need for mental health resources. The Oregon Health Authority also trains healthcare providers to help patients cope with trauma after disasters.
Being well-prepared is an important step toward mental health resilience. CDC’s Climate and Health Program can help federal, state, local, and tribal health agencies prepare by providing technical assistance and tools.
“One of CDC’s Climate and Health Program priority actions is to provide support to communities preparing for the health effects of climate change,” Schramm said. “Our website offers resources that communities, organizations, and health departments can use for climate adaptation planning.”
Visit the following webpages for further information and resources:
- Climate change and mental health
- Mental health support for health professionals
- Disaster response resources for leaders
Tweet this: #DYK climate change can affect your mental health? Learn about the relationship between #ClimateChange and #MentalHealth. Read the latest #CDCEHblog via @CDCEnvironment: https://bit.ly/3smsvMn