Ways Climate Change Affects the Mental Health of Young People

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

The European Parliament’s recent ban on single-use plastic products was hailed as a positive step in the world’s battle against climate change. Yet at the same time, younger generations around the world want to see more government action. Deeply concerned about their future as dire forecasts of a worsening environment continue, students from across the globe keep protesting. And while the threats often associated with climate change are to physical health, homes, the air, water, and economy, psychologists says the toll it takes on young people’s mental health can’t be ignored. “The impact that all the aspects of climate change have on mental health is far-reaching,” says Leslie Landis, a family therapist and author of Chendell: A Natural Warrior, a fantasy novel with environmental themes.” Landis outlines some positive and negative impacts that climate change is having on the mental health of young people:

• Activism. Young people are leading the way to fight climate change by forming mass protests around the globe. “Climate justice is a fight for the future,” Landis says. “Despite rising sea levels, wildfires, extreme weather events and dire warnings from scientists, politicians globally haven’t responded as needed. And young people are enraged; they know that doing nothing, sitting silently, severely threatens their future.”

• Innovation. In Congress, 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has put climate change solutions at the forefront with her proposed legislation, the “Green New Deal.” Young entrepreneurs are growing profitable businesses by focusing on environmentally friendly innovations. “Each project is an inspiring example of how young people are taking creative approaches to combating climate change,” Landis says. “In each there’s some solidarity, which is key to progress being made.”

• Anxiety, stress. “Fear of extreme weather, changing weather patterns, or worrying about what the future will look like because of climate change increases stress and anxiety,” Landis says. “That in turn can cause depression, sleep disorders and weaken the immune system.” One report says young people with depression and anxiety might be disproportionately more at risk for worsening symptoms due to climate change.

• Trauma, shock. Natural disasters caused by climate change bring a high potential for severe psychological trauma from personal injury, the injury or death of a loved one, loss of personal property, and loss of pets. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result when feelings of helplessness and despair last for long periods.

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