OP-ED: Global Warming’s Impact on Mental Health

6 mins read

In the last issue of The Knight News, readers were given a brief introduction of global warming. In this issue we will discuss the effects global warming has on mental health. The subject has been researched over three decades by scientists, because it is integral in understanding the consequences that extreme events, like natural disasters and fluctuating temperatures have on a person’s well being and mental state.

Some of the mental health consequences which occur due to climate change include: depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts. When taking into consideration what natural disasters do to a person’s environment, such as their homes, jobs, and livelihood, the subsequent outcome on mental health is likely to be expected. Extreme weather changes are caused by increased temperatures, rising precipitation, and rising sea levels. These factors play a part in natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods, while raising disease carriers, such as  mosquitoes or ticks to be present in said environments.

While the natural disasters caused by extreme weather change bring on climate-influenced illness and death, damage to homes, communities, and population displacement are also a result of such. This takes a toll on affected persons, as preexisting conditions such as behavioral and mental health conditions, socioeconomic status, and individual resilience, are causes of mental health deterioration.

The people who are impacted the hardest in natural disasters, are susceptible to mental health anguish, this category often includes people with lower socioeconomic status. People suffering from poverty are the ones that feel the pain the most, because they are not equipped financially or given the resources to deal with natural disasters. We’re witnessing this that now in Puerto Rico, where homes have been ravaged by hurricanes and communities have been devastated. With little support being given, one has to believe that this is causing not only pain physically, but mentally to the community as well.  

Populations that experience natural disasters more frequently, tend to have a more delicate  mindset. For example, Mexico, which recently experienced three strong earthquakes. The people of Mexico barely had time to recover from one earthquake, before they were tragically hit with another one in the span of a week. The threat of another earthquake is looming over the country, setting fear in the back of their minds. It’s a burden the people must carry with them due to the geological location in which they live in, something not merely limited to Mexico.

People of different locations, such as the Virgin islands or Puerto Rico live with fears of hurricanes destroying their homes. The threat of climate change is in itself a psychological and emotional stressor. People are not only affected by the direct effect of something happening within their community, but also by exposure to news about climate change and its effects. So yes, in a way this article will cause you stress, I apologize for that.

News on climate change can change perception for your own well being, especially when one hears conflicting reports on the subject. For example, a week and a half ago there was a report where scientists discovered the population has more time for lowering our carbon emissions to acceptable levels previously agreed upon. However, some news publications took the headline and altered it, to make it seem as though scientists had been wrong about climate change. When these reports come out, which are fake news paraded around as real news, it becomes a detriment not only to the cause of stopping climate change, but also to a person’s mental health.

Hearing two conflicting stories about the issue from news publications can be disheartening, as one doesn’t know what to believe, and in an era where fake news runs rampant, that’s to be expected. This causes stress and frustration, which isn’t good for a person’s mental health.

Climate change affects people both physically and mentally. It’s worse when proper relief is not provided in a timely manner to victims. Millions of people are displaced because of the recent hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We must make our politicians fulfil their civic duties and help fight towards aid for these people. Queens College NYPIRG is currently hosting a Hurricane Maria PR Relief Drive, boxes are available outside their office, LL 36.

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