Recognising that emotions are often what leads people to act, it is possible that feelings of ecological anxiety and grief, although uncomfortable, are in fact the crucible through which humanity must pass to harness the energy and conviction that are needed for the lifesaving changes now required.
Climate change has created a global mental health crisis. Due to both direct (e.g. extreme heat, hurricanes, desertification, displacement) and indirect (knowledge and awareness of the crisis) impacts of the climate crisis, people are experiencing climate emotions and mental health issues.
But, the direct impacts of climate change are not equal. People living in the Global South and predominately communities of color in the United States, who also often face environmental racism, disproportionately are affected by climate change and have less access to resources to address the mental health consequences of systemic environmental racism and climate disasters.
200 million people in the US are at risk for climate-mental health issues & 64% are worried about climate change.
Only 9 of 95 countries surveyed in 2021 by the World Health Organization have mental health included in their national health and climate programs.
By 2050, 9,000-40,000 more people in Mexico & the US could die by suicide due to increased temperatures.
83% of Gen Zers in the US worry about climate change & 75% said the environment affects their mental health.
45% of surveyed worldwide youth said emotional distress because of climate change impacts their daily life and ability to function
80% of people in the United States experienced extreme heat in 2021. In the US, 12% of pediatric ER visits were due to hotter temperatures. Studies show a connection between extreme heat and aggressive behaviors.
In 2020, 98% of the 30 million people who were displaced worldwide was due to climate-induced extreme weather. 3 million people in the US were displaced in 2022 because of climate disasters.
For 75% of 10,000 university students in 32 countries, climate anxiety leads to positive environmental behaviors and actions.
After a deadly California wildfire, people exposed directly and indirectly to the fire showed negative changes to cognition and brain function.
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT I NEED. SINGING? TO BE HELD? THIS GRIEF IS BIGGER THAN ANYTHING I'VE EXPERIENCED."
"I DO FEEL ALONE WITH MY EMOTIONS ON CLIMATE CHANGE, BUT I KNOW I'M NOT... I STILL DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE IT A PRODUCTIVE SOCIAL CONVERSATION TOPIC."
"I'VE BEEN A SUSTAINABILITY PROFESSIONAL FOR OVER 25 YEARS, I'M BURNT OUT AND FAILING."
"SOLUTIONS NEED TO BE TAUGHT SO THAT WE AREN'T JUST BEING TAUGHT BY THERAPY OR MEDITATION TO 'JUST LIVE WITH IT' BUT ACTUALLY TO FEEL EMPOWERED THAT WE CAN USE OUR VOICES AND ACTIONS TO DO SOMETHING."
"I REGULARLY SPEND TIME OUTSIDE IN NATURE, WHICH HELPS LESSEN NEGATIVE SYMPTOMS FROM THINKING ABOUT CLIMATE INSTABILITY. LEARNING ABOUT EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS ALSO HELPS ME FEEL MORE IN CONTROL AND LESSENS THE NEGATIVE FEELINGS."
"I DON'T WANT TO DIE, BUT I DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN A WORLD THAT DOESN'T CARE FOR CHILDREN AND ANIMALS."
Source: Emma Lawrence, The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing: Current Evidence and Implications for Policy and Practice