It is time for psychology and psychologists to think seriously about the ways in which climate change anxiety could be a chronic mental health problem.
Regardless of the type of figure of climate change that we experience, high temperatures record, hurricanes, flooding, or drought, climate change is happening. Although climate change is sometimes considered as a problem primarily affecting the north pole, specially polar bears, it is increasingly apparent that human physical health is also threatened.
However, the link between mental health and climate change is still less obvious. the impacts of discrete events such as natural disasters on mental health has been demonstrated through decades of research showing increased levels of depression, anxiety and even domestic violence.
Because of their potential to threat more communities – sea level rising, spread of water/vector-borne diseases, natural disasters, and malnutrition in addition to the acute impacts of natural disasters and the socially-mediated impacts of forced migration and conflict – these facts caused the development of a societal concern about the future of global warming.
Natural disasters also have indirect effects on physical and social infrastructure, disrupting educational, medical, economic, and transportation systems. This adds to the stress burden of individuals and threatens the mental health of those who are vulnerable.
The term eco-anxiety or climate anxiety has been emerged in 2017 that is described by the American Psychological Association as “a chronic fear of environmental doom” but is not designated as a specific condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Although the implications of climate change in mental health has been addressed for decades, most of that works focused on risk perception, ways to communicate about climate change, attitudes and interventions to promote mitigation through more sustainable behavior.
It is time for psychology and psychologists to think seriously about the ways in which climate anxiety could be a chronic mental health problem. The way may be a mean awareness and education about the issue should be part of clinical training. It might mean a focus on developing best practices for helping people who are experiencing this problem.
Climate change is also a social problem : the state of anxiety that marks people’s response to climate change is shaped actually by the way in which society is addressing or not this crise. As other social issues that affect mental health, we must find an appropriate policy to respond to individual and social problems linked to climate change.