Climate, Mental Health and Well-being

Climate change is a contemporary issue that was recently cited as a major threat to human health and well-being. The U.S Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) recognizes this existential problem and has been using the President’s Climate Action Plan 1 to lobby for immediate action on the matter (Balbus et al., 2016). What is even more significant is the fact climate change does not occur in isolation and is ultimately bound to directly affect all aspects of human life. Mental health and wellbeing are heavily impacted by climate change. Extreme weather events have been identified as major stressors capable of triggering a wide range of mental health problems. Incremental changes such as rising sea levels and temperature fluctuations eventually affect an individual’s overall well-being. Clinical depression is an emerging environmental health issue linked to climate change. It is now emerging that repeated exposure to climate related natural disasters may result in chronic psychological dysfunctions linked to particular stressors. Seemingly mundane representations such as popular culture pictures depicting climate change influence individual’s stress response and may even mark the onset of disorders such as clinical depression.

Federal, state and local government together with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have displayed an unrivalled dedication when seeking to address environmental hazards. The federal government has reacted to this issue by acknowledging that climate change is a reality that many now have to contend with. Some of these actualities include a projected increase in the number of individuals exhibiting symptoms indicative of clinical depression.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) now include environmental psychologists in their panels out of concern stemming from a rise in mental health issues (Butler, 2016, p. 45). These experts are uniquely qualified in establishing the connection that exists between climate change and mental disorders such as clinical depression now on the rise across the country. State governments are also contributing to these efforts by acting as a conduit through which federal policies are actualized in their jurisdiction. For instance, the State of New York recently partnered with the Natural Gas STAR and Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy programs to reduce carbon emissions thus promoting individuals greater mental well-being. Moreover, local governments are actively participating in awareness campaign targeting boroughs where individuals are unaware of the effects of climate change on well-being. Associations with NGOs such as the American Association of State Climatologists, Environment and Energy Study Institute and Arctic Research help bolster their stance on climate, ultimately making it possible to spread information about its connection with clinical depression.  There are a number of measures that need to be taken as a way of ensuring that environmental hazards resulting from climate change do not harm individuals and predispose individuals to disorders such as clinical depression. One of the most important measures is first pin-pointing vulnerable segments of the population and how best to react when disasters strike. This process also entails identifying individuals who are at a higher risk of developing a mental health disorder such as clinical depression owing to weather-related disasters.  Among these are individuals with pre-existing mental illnesses, young children, first responders and postpartum women. Additionally, addressing industrial activities is an important step towards controlling the rate at which climate change is occurring globally. Industrial activities often end up emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane gas (CH4) which accelerate climate change (Clayton & Manning, 2018, p. 67). High levels would ultimately result in higher levels of individual’s psychological distress which would predispose them to disorders such as clinical depression. Regulating industrial activities will reduce the perception of powerlessness that depressed individuals when exposed pollutants, ultimately improving their mental health.

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