Climate Change & Mental Health

While climate change poses a global threat on the environmental space, it has grown to immaculately impact the masses’ health and mental well-being. The unequivocal changes observed in varied climates have manifested repercussions in the form of global warming, melting ice caps, wildlife extinction and a risk for human health. While little is spoken about mental illness being associated with climate change, the causal-effect linkage between the two realms of survival are increasingly being researched upon. Mental illness here, does not just refer merely to mental disorders, but also to have a healthy state of mental and emotional health including psychosocial well-being in people. Extensive research over the years has shown a profound impact on an individual’s mood and overarching mental state in extreme climate conditions. This article hence, further decodes the causes, consequences and ways to cope with climate change induced mental health depreciations.

Causes:

One of the profound causes for climate change being overlooked as a factor for developing mental distress is due to the changes brought by seasons in distant and abstract forms, wherein any distress or change is merely considered a temporary seasonal change. While relatively less acute forms of these changes in varied distresses might be overlooked, studies have shown a significant development of post-traumatic stress disorder due to climate change related disasters such as flooding, droughts, landslides, earthquakes and so forth. The inevitable loss that comes with such experiences with respect to losing a loved one, or enduring a major financial loss leads to developing depression, anxiety, subsequent post trauma and related symptomatologies. Additionally, increased global warming has led to insomnia, hypertension, anxiety and increased aggressive traits due to a rise in temperatures which have a credible impact on an individual’s daily functioning. On the other hand, a widely known term understood as ‘Winter Depression’, essentially induces depressive symptoms in an individual due to the absence of sun exposure, since natural sunlight has been widely proven to provide natural serotonin.

Consequences:

A stark extensivity of modern research is gradually amalgamating the impact of climate change induced mental health issues, in order to not only better understand the given association, but to also bring about a change by developing early interventions and coping strategies to mitigate the negative effects of climate change. As per research, one of the major consequences of global warming was a stark decrease in energy levels and consequentially, cheerful moods in the working population globally. Most often, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is considered to be the most prevalent consequence of climate change, however recent studies have now indicated an increase in the level of suicide and suicide ideation after extreme phases of weather. Furthermore, climate change has damaged infrastructure, people, and their resources in a very unforeseen fashion, making losses more traumatic to cope with. A significant aspect to understand here becomes the role of climate change in migration, which leads to a paramount degree of distressed traits.

Coping Mechanisms:

With further studies being conducted on the cause and effect association between climate change and mental health, certain coping strategies always help. Here are some ways you could cope-

We can all affect change: We often picture climate action as a giant boulder at the bottom of a hill, but when we look at what so many groups are already doing, we realize it’s at the top and already rolling with millions of hands for us to join. Every step one takes has merit.

Seek Help: Reach out to a therapist if climate anxiety starts overwhelming you. Remind yourself that resilience is the ability to function and thrive in the face of negative events, and humans have this resource in spades. People who have deep concerns about the climate, benefit from spaces that take those concerns seriously. Joining forces amplifies solutions. Finding groups in one’s own community is especially valuable.

Lifestyle Changes: A study of 1,220 people in Canada and 1,001 in the United States found that pro-environmental actions predicted levels of life satisfaction, even after controlling for demographic characteristics such as age, income, and education. Researchers conclude that pro-environmental behavior, just like other forms of prosocial behavior, such as volunteering or random acts of kindness is associated with greater subjective well-being.

A Sense of Control – A study of more than 9,000 households in the U.K. provides a clue that pro-environmental behaviors — specifically, energy use and recycling — were associated with higher scores on measures of life satisfaction. It may help reestablish a sense of control, which is thought to promote psychological well-being. The researchers describe this as a “win-win” for public health and the environment.

An alarming threat of climate change doesn’t merely bring about altercations in the physicalities of global masses, it also tremendously impacts the mental well-being of people on a day-to-day basis. Together, with more awareness, sensitivity and mindful practices, one may be able to mitigate the effects that climate change brings to us in varied distresses. While the association is yet to be further explored substantively, a growing body of literature now focuses on bringing to light that climatic changes do cause mental health issues.

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We have an exciting update!

Six years ago, we started Karma Center for Counselling & WellBeing with limited ideas, resources and a dream. A dream of making mental health resources available in a sex positive, queer affirmative and accessible way to people in Delhi, since then we have seen growth and the ability to cater to our populations in the margins. It has been heartwarming to see our efforts go global over the years. What started small and has gained so much momentum as an organisation since then. It is with immense pleasure that I announce the launch of our new website!

The shift to online mode of working influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic has made me realize the importance of having a website that is people-oriented and easy-to-use. The first website was made by me using a simple template structure but at the time it gave direction to the vision that was still under construction! This website has been developed on a more professional level. While thinking about sections to add, It brought me great joy to see the way our service offerings have evolved and expanded to include, say supervision for new therapists or  working with prison mental health, to name a few. 

The excitement is palpable, as our in house psychologist and interns have put in all their efforts to create this new website. The team has incorporated various aspects to make it a smooth navigating experience for our users. 

Karma is more than just an organization, it is a family. Our family is growing and we could not be more grateful. This month we reached the 3k milestone on Instagram, and I would like to wholeheartedly thank all our subscribers for this as well.

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Manavi Khurana

Founder & Counselling Psychologist

Karma Center for Counselling & Well-Being

Karma Center for Counselling & Wellbeing, F7/7, Block F, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi, Delhi 110057, India