Climate Change and Mental Health

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Climate change is having widespread impacts on buildings and infrastructure, agriculture and other weather-dependent businesses, the quality of the environment, recreational opportunities, and physical health. Because all of these impacts affect individual and community quality-of-life, it should not be surprising that climate change is also resulting in stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental, emotional, and social impacts. Climate change affects mental health in a number of ways:

Fear and Uncertainty About Climate Change

The current risks posed by climate change, along with the fear and uncertainty about what climate change may bring in the future, can lead to stress and anxiety. Climate change is already affecting businesses, communities, and individuals, and it is challenging to predict how these effects might change in the future. The scope of the problem can feel overwhelming, while the ability to individually influence it can feel daunting.

Distress Caused by Environmental Changes

Environmental degradation caused by climate change can result in a feeling of loss or grief, especially for people with emotional connections to and personal memories of their local environment. For example, a lack of snow and ice cover in winter, or the presence of cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) on Lake Champlain, can be depressing for those with nostalgic memories of earlier, more pristine versions of these environments.

Disruptions to Businesses and Hobbies

Tropical Storm Irene resulted in over $10 million in crop losses for Vermont farmers, while Vermont ski resorts suffered from an extremely warm winter in 2015 – 2016. These types of impacts affect not only personal finances but also a way of life. In the same way, skiers, gardeners, hikers, swimmers, and other outdoor recreationalists are being affected by abnormal weather patterns and new risks including ticks and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).

Trauma Related to Flooding and Other Disasters

Those affected by disasters often experience traumatic stress during the event, post-traumatic stress following the event, and grief or depression over losses that occurred as a result of the disaster. These conditions were commonly reported around Vermont as a result of the loss of life, injuries, property and business damage, and environmental damage that occurred during Tropical Storm Irene.

Impacts Associated with Physical Health Problems

Climate change is increasing risks for heat stress, infectious diseases, and seasonal allergic reactions. People affected by these conditions also often suffer from stress and depression related to feeling unwell, needing to undergo treatment, or having to reduce participation in typical daily activities.

    take action to reduce mental health impacts of climate change!

    • Use anxiety and worry as motivation to take productive actions to reduce climate change and prepare for the impacts of climate change—learn more about what you can do on our Take Action! page.
    • Develop a support network with family, friends, local groups, or other peers who are also concerned about or affected by climate change.
    • Contact the Vermont Department of Mental Health to learn about local coping services and resources.
    • Farmers can contact the Agency of Agriculture’s Farm First Program to learn about coping services and resources specifically for farmers.