This report aims to increase awareness of the psychological impacts of climate change on human mental health and well-being. The report provides the tools and tips needed to respond to these impacts and bolster public engagement on climate solutions.
The most immediate effects on mental health are in the form of the trauma and shock, which may then be replaced by post-traumatic stress disorder. There are also significant mental health impacts from longer-term climate change, which may result in the loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear and fatalism.
Climate change is likewise having mental health impacts at the community level. Both acute and long-term changes have been shown to elevate hostility and interpersonal and intergroup aggression, and contribute to the loss of social identity and cohesion. Certain disadvantaged communities can experience disproportionate mental health impacts.
The key to combating the potential negative psychological effects of climate change is building resilience. This report concludes with the following recommendations designed to help prepare for and recover from climate change–related mental trauma:
- Build belief in one’s own resilience;
- Foster optimism;
- Cultivate active coping and self-regulation skills;
- Maintain practices that help to provide a sense of meaning;
- Promote connectedness to family, place, culture, and community.