The Mental Health Toll of Climate Change

”I am here to say, our house is on fire… I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
Greta Thunberg

Every recent natural disaster seems to be blamed on climate change. It seems like a lazy excuse much like blaming fibromyalgia or other nervous system / immune system disorders on seemingly unrelated symptoms. The more you learn about the body or how climate works the clearer the connections between seemingly unrelated events become.

The Mental Health toll of climate change isn’t just reserved to environmentalists like Greta Thunberg, student strikers, or me. In fact, it’s largest victims are those subject to environmental catastrophes. When we are unable to take care of our physical health, our mental health decline. Imagine not having heat in the dead of winter, your whole town incinerated, your house swept away, or the land is no longer providing food. How will this compound existing problems and worsen your mental health?

Between September of 2017 and February 2018, nearly 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The survivors dealt with media and government covering up and grossly under guessing the death toll. In 2018 California’s deadliest wildfire sparked and destroyed the three small communities, killing 86 people. The anniversary is a triggering moment for the survivors of the trauma. The beginning of 2019 many states experienced a polar vortex. Temperatures reached as low as -56 F (-48C). The vortex killed 21 people.

In Central America, people are fleeing to the US not just to escape life-threatening poverty, a lot of which is caused by crop failure. Coffee and other tropical crops are highly sensitive to changes in the climate. Warner nights meant diseases like leaf rust are better able to ravage crops. In a sense, the vast numbers of people coming to the US from Central America are climate refugees. At the border unbeknownst to them, they were separated from their children. Family separation especially in the conditions and manner these people were subject to creates lasting trauma and can cause PTSD.

Caring about the planet and climate change is caring about mental health. Though each of us can at least learn, it is industries the ultra rich that need to be held accountable for our planet’s peril.

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