Symptoms ranging from emotional distress to anxiety, depression, grief, and suicidal behavior may be caused by fast-paced changes to weather and climate. This also includes the rise of “climate anxiety” among the youth, which stems from concern about climate change, and may lead to fear, anger, feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion, stress, and sadness.
According to Dr. Maria Neria, the director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO): “The impacts of climate change are increasingly part of our daily lives, and there is very little dedicated mental health support available for people and communities dealing with climate-related hazards and long-term risk”.
The populations who are more vulnerable to the mental health impacts of climate change include the economically disadvantaged, communities of color, indigenous peoples, older adults, women, people with disabilities, outdoor workers, and individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions.
According to Devora Kestel, the director of the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, 3 out of 4 in the nearly one billion people living with mental health conditions, in low and middle-income countries, do not have access to needed services.
Making mental health a priority when putting in place actions against climate change can help protect vulnerable individuals, therefore should include accessible support to those at risk.
- Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Speiser, M., & Hill, A. N. (2021). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Inequities, Responses. Washington, D.C. American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/mental-health-climate-change.pdf
- United Nations (2022). Make mental health support part of climate action plans: WHO. Retrieved from: https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/06/1119682
- World Health Organization (2022). Why mental health is a priority for action on climate change. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news/item/03-06-2022-why-mental-health-is-a-priority-for-action-on-climate-change