Global warming became front-page news more than 30 years ago, and we all know that it has not gotten better. The climate crisis has long been a global issue that affects the planet and our general wellbeing.
Today, global temperatures are at the hottest ever recorded. The global concentration of carbon dioxide and sea levels continue to rise despite some nations engaging in climate action.
Extreme weather events and natural disasters accumulating in the past months can be disheartening.
Some impacts of climate change, such as hurricanes and heavy rainfall, pose an existential threat.
According to scientists, heavier rainfall mixed with warmer air can hold more moisture, hence the torrential rain.
We have already witnessed the effects of rising sea levels, with people from some lower-lying cities having to relocate.
And now floods from Hurricane Ida are devastating subway stations, highways and apartments in New York City, looking like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.
Climate change anxiety is out there.
And while various organisations, government bodies, and the UN have taken action, you would be justified in questioning if this is enough.
Climate anxiety, an aspect of the broader phenomenon of eco-anxiety, encompasses complex emotions experienced due to ongoing environmental issues.
We must give priority to anxiety disorders and other mental health problems that result from this threat.
Effects on physical health
Directly or indirectly, the physical health effects of climate change impact mental health.
Some physical health effects caused by heatwaves include increased rates of heart-related illnesses and cardiopulmonary conditions. Unfortunately, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases are prevalent among elderly people.
Climate change influences the spread of these diseases, including dengue and malaria.
Stress and PTSD can also, in turn, harm physical health. Mental health professionals must address climate anxiety before it takes a toll on our physical health.
Young people are fighting for their future
According to a study published earlier this year, 1,700 children who lived through four major hurricanes (Ike, Charley, Katrina, and Andrew) had the event impact them after the fact.
Results state that half of the children went on to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
It’s important to note the unique effect this crisis has on young people, who are more likely to experience climate anxiety.
Perhaps, since they are also more likely to experience climate change’s cataclysmic results. Global temperatures are set to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius in the coming decades.
Enhanced vulnerability to all these environmental issues can contribute negatively to physical and psychological development.
That’s why it’s not surprising to see activism spearheaded by the youth. Even high school students have become involved.
In 2019, reports stated that children walked out on the streets, marching and protesting against climate change. Young people have been involved proactively in responding to the changing climate.
Some organisations advocate the mitigation of carbon emissions and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Youth-led climate action has made waves around the world. (And we’re not talking about the sea levels.) It’s crucial that the adult world support young activists and not limit their involvement in the climate movement.
Impact on big life decisions
Fear for the future is inevitable for many of our youth. In fact, younger couples and newlyweds are opting out of having children.
These couples fear that they won’t be able to give a child a bright future and would only expose them to a bleak world; some even worry that havingmore children will further accelerate carbon emissions and contribute to the lack of resources in the future.
(Though this is a hotly debated topic)
Avoiding milestones might seem extreme, but the reality is that many people feel anxious about the future, which climate psychologists have addressed.
How to treat climate anxiety
Psychotherapists and psychologists nowadays are teaming up with advocacy groups focused on the climate crisis and the effects of climate change on the Earth.
Climate-based mental health professionals often focus on how the mental health impact of the Earth’s destruction differs in children and adults.
Many organisations like the Climate Psychology Alliance believe that eco-anxiety, or climate anxiety, is a significant concern, pushing us to recognise that we are part of the problem so that we can work to solve climate change.
Other groups fervently lobby government agencies to consider climate anxiety as a public health concern.
Be a catalyst for change
With global warming and the Earth’s climate crisis looming, all we can do now is slow down the damages that humans (primarily those in charge of the largest companies) have caused.
All with the hope that future generations can live in a cleaner, greener world one day.
As humans, we also have to realise that people can indeed be affected by and suffer from climate change anxiety. In these instances, we must extend our understanding and support to those who bear the weight of it.
It goes without saying that we can all contribute in our own way to reducing our carbon footprint.
Our individual efforts may be small. Still, they are the most effective way to spark a change in our household.
And hopefully, in turn, companies and politicians with even more power can implement these changes on a broader scale.
Where do we go from here?
Eco-anxiety or any other mental health concerns related to climate change are no longer a new concept.
But, the world is finally starting to pay attention.
The momentum should not slow down, as the primary solution to solving climate anxiety is to save our planet from the devastating effects of climate change.
It’s heartwarming to know that these mental health concerns are now given public attention in the media. Hopefully, the advocates for climate anxiety won’t lose steam and continue striving for a better world.
If you’re an Australian struggling with mental health, contact Beyond Blue for support.