January 30, 2022
Writer: Richardson dR Mojica
Researcher: K Ballesteros
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Discussions on climate change have been around for decades. But only in recent years have people been talking about it with much more concern, and for some, alarm, panic, and anxiety.
The rising temperatures, rising sea levels, shrinking glaciers, and increase in pollution are some of the undeniable effects of climate change that the world is facing right now. These threats endanger the lives of millions of people and other inhabitants of the planet.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) in 2021 recognizes climate change and weather changes as a cause of anxiety-related problems and various mental health disorders . These mental health effects of climate change are seen as either direct or indirect, or long term or short term. Moreover, The US Global Change Program (2016) as cited by APA (2021) noted that “extreme weather events have also been associated with increases in aggressive behavior and domestic violence.” Cianconi, Betro, and Janiri (2020)  found out that having long exposure to extreme weather-related events leads to different mental health disorders like posttraumatic stress that can be transmitted to the next generations.
Aside from the obvious effects of climate change that we are now experiencing, the long-term effects of climate change on humans pose a huge challenge for one’s mental health. These effects are long-term and interconnected including migration, food security, unemployment, and loss of social support (APA, 2021) . People experiencing these effects become part of the population vulnerable to developing mental health problems.
The American Psychological Association (APA) and ecoAmerica (2021)  are calling for the urgent need to address the mental health effects of climate change. According to a 2017 report from the said organizations , there are individual community and society impacts of climate change on mental health.
Some of the individual impacts include:
- Trauma and shock
- Post-traumatic disorder
- Compounded stress
- Strains on social relationships
- Aggression and violence
- Mental health emergencies
- Helplessness, depression, fear, fatalism, recognition, and ecoanxiety
These individual impacts can be acute or chronic which can, directly and indirectly, affect the wellbeing of an individual as a result of experiencing natural disasters and extreme weather events. Natural disasters, for example, can cause trauma if one experiences injury, death, or loss of a loved one or property. For instance, the report cited that suicide and suicidal ideation doubled among people living in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Impacts on the community and society:
- Social Cohesion and community continuity
- Interpersonal Violence
- Intergroup Aggression
Climate change affects communities and society as it also changes the way how individuals interact with each other in their communities and social systems. When the land becomes uninhabitable, social systems change, migration happens leading to erosion of social networks when the members of the community are scattered. Indonesia announced that they are changing their capital from Jakarta to Borneo. One of the reasons includes climate change factors such as pollution, rising sea levels, and others. Vuurst and Escobar (2020)  mentioned that this capital change may gradually increase Borneo’s population from mass human migration resulting in a collapse in social systems.
1) How might we cope with climate crisis-related anxiety?
2) How is our mental health affected by the climate crisis?
3) How can we take care of each other’s mental health as we together address the climate crisis?
 American Psychiatric Association (2021). How Extreme Weather Events Affect Mental Health. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/climate-change-and-mental-health-connections/affects-on-mental-health
 Cianconi, P., Betro, S., and Janiri, L. (2020). The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health: A Systematic Descriptive Review. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.00074
 American Psychological Association (2020). Urgent need to address mental health effects of climate change, says report https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2021/11/mental-health-effects-climate-change
 Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. (2017). Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2017/03/mental-health-climate.pdf
 Vuurst, P., Escobar, L., (2020). Perspective: Climate Change and the Relocation of Indonesia’s Capital to Borneo https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2020.00005