Environment & Mental Health

As per the WHO, 1 out of 4 people will suffer from a form of mental or neurological disorder. At present, around 450 million people suffer from mental health issues.1

 As more information about the climate crisis emerges, we have learnt more about how the current climate discourse impacts our mental health.

It is well-documented that human mental health emerges from a complex interplay between genetic, psychological, lifestyle, and other factors. In addition, people are also exposed to numerous environments. These environmental exposures (e.g., green space, noise, air pollution, weather conditions, housing conditions) might trigger mental disorders or be protective factors, facilitating stress reduction, mental recovery, etc. (Marco Helbich, MDPI)2

The state of the planet around us is inextricably linked to our mental health. The impact of an unsavoury environment on our mental health is well documented. Growing up around dirty air can make you four times more likely to develop depression. And this number becomes especially worrying when 9 out of 10 people reside in areas where the air quality is less than ideal, as per the WHO.

Climate change has also led to an increase in extreme weather events. climate scientists are increasingly exploring the human fingerprints on floods, heatwaves, droughts and storms. As per an APA report, in communities that face climate related trauma, PTSD symptoms may develop in 15% of the population. This is further exacerbated if there is loss of life due to said trauma. As per the American Public health association, 55% of adults, and 45% of kids exhibit symptoms of depression post climate traumas, which if left unchecked, can lead to the development of long term mental health issues.4

Climate change is also leading to eco-anxiety. Generations are feeling angry and powerless at the current state of affairs. This eco anxiety can manifest itself and exhaustion, feelings of guilt, and a general disdain at daily life. Within Communities and individuals that already have preexisting mental health issues, this form of eco-anxiety may lead to worsened mental health.

Ecoanxiety can reduce our ability to relate to others leading to negative relationships with those in our lives. It may cause us to react with anger at those who do not share our environmental concerns, and only relate to those who do.

Another group that is facing the mental health fallout from climate change are climate scientists. Constantly being in the know of the current crisis, coupled with the perceived lack of positive progress may lead to anxiety.

For everyone who is dealing with the fallout from climate change on your mental health, please prioritize your mental health. You cannot keep fighting the good fight if you are mentally exhausted. Take some time to connect with nature, and remember that there will always be hope.


References:

1. World Health Report, WHO
    https://www.who.int/whr/2001/media_centre/press_release/en/

2. Mental Health and Environmental Exposures: An Editorial, Marco Helbich
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6210156/

3. Growing up in dirty air ‘quadruples chances of developing depression’, Damian Carrington
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/30/children-exposed-to-air-pollution-more-likely-to-develop-depressio
    (Original Report from Psychiatry Research)

4. Making the connection: Climate Changes mental health report, American Public Health Association and ecoAmerica
    https://www.apha.org/~/media/files/pdf/topics/climate/climate_changes_mental_health.ashx

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