Ecoanxiety. Ecoparalysis. Solastalgia. Call it what you want— when it comes to climate change and mental health, the future is now.
By Lawrence A. Palinkas, the Daily Climate
Hardly a day goes by where we aren't reminded that the Earth's climate is changing and that we are responsible for much if not most of that change.
The findings of one study after another are punctuated by breaking news or the direct experience of wildfires, hurricanes and floods that forced thousands of people to evacuate, damage property, and erase tangible reminders of our past.
More ubiquitous, but less publicized, are the millions of people who are exposed to heat waves, long-term droughts, rising sea levels, and eroding coastlines, forcing them to move elsewhere or spend large sums of money building communities that are habitable.
We respond to such news and events in a variety of ways. Some of us sink into deep despair or simply resign ourselves to the inevitability of global climate change. Some of us live with the trauma of having survived life-threatening extreme weather events. Some of us actively avoid the reality of climate change or spend considerable psychic energy denying that it is happening or, at the very least, denying our responsibility for its happening.
Each of these responses represent a challenge to our mental health. For instance, people exposed to life-threatening extreme weather events are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.
People exposed to prolonged heat waves are more likely to make poor decisions that place them at risk for death or severe injury. People exposed to long-term drought are more likely to experience depression, interpersonal violence and thoughts of suicide. People exposed to sea level rise and coastal erosion are more likely to experience anxiety and interpersonal conflict with others in their community.
However, these mental health challenges are perhaps the most overlooked consequences of climate change.
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