#ClimateChange is taking a toll on our mental health – #Colorado Newsline – Coyote Gulch


This car in Superior was among the victims of the Marshall Fire in late December 2021 that burned 1,084 homes and scarred 30,000 residents of Superior and Louisville. Photo/Allen Best

From apocalyptic disasters like the Marshall Fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes, to high temperatures and high ozone levels making cozy summer days a distant memory, to rapidly deteriorating water quality Colorado air leaving us wondering if it’s safe to be outdoors, it’s clear that the effects of climate change are a threat to our health and safety.

Worse still, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight as experts predict new conditions of drought, polluted air and wildfires in every corner of the state that look like a powder keg ready to ignite. ignite and wreak havoc with the slightest spark.

But beneath visible impacts such as wildfires, which force people to take immediate action for their safety, lurks an unseen but no less insidious danger to the well-being of Coloradans: climate change is wreaking havoc on our Mental Health.

Every day, in every corner of the state, people face the terror of not knowing if today is the day a fire destroys their home, leaving behind treasured memories and shattering the sense of safety forever. that a house represents. Given the existential terror that climate change is forcing us to face, it’s no wonder our mental health is deteriorating at the thought of this crisis threatening our way of life.

Research on the impacts of climate change on mental health has provided some disturbing data. In a 2021 report, the American Psychological Association found that more than 75% of Americans “are concerned about climate change, and those most ‘Alarmed’ (about 25% of the US population) have nearly doubled between 2017 and 2021”.

As a licensed therapist specializing in the treatment of climate anxiety, I have seen an increase in the stress my patients express about the state of our climate and its impact on them, their families, and their communities. It is impossible to overstate how severe these impacts are on our mental well-being.

Communities experiencing traumatic weather conditions, such as the Marshall Fire in Boulder County last December, can see their mental health suffer greatly. Patients who have directly experienced weather-related disasters often experience symptoms associated with PTSD, including flashbacks, triggers, nightmares, avoidance, depression, and numbness. It affects their ability to function day-to-day – to parent, to work, to develop relationships, to thrive.

Studies show that climate impacts like heat and drought can contribute to anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, violence, suicide, and depression.

Some patients I see are parents struggling with a myriad of complex emotions and concerns: guilt, immobilizing anxiety, grief, anger, and themes of privilege. The uncertainty that parents feel about the future of the planet their children will inherit as well as the despair of not knowing if a disaster will threaten the health and safety of their children manifests in many mental health issues.

Climate change impacts the mental health of all Coloradans, but poorer communities and communities of color in Colorado are at greater risk of climate impacts such as high heat, the threat of wildfires, and the high ozone. Studies show that climate impacts like heat and drought can contribute to anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, violence, suicide, and depression. It is important that members of these communities have increased access to mental health services to address the disproportionate impacts they face.

While research shows that Americans are stressed by climate change, it also shows that we can address some of this climate anxiety through therapy and by investing in building resilient communities.

Numerous pieces of legislation aimed at helping communities become more resilient to climate change and its impacts have been passed by the state legislature this year, including wildfire mitigation and disaster preparedness programs that make communities safer in the event of a climate disaster. Providing communities with the funding needed to adequately prepare for wildfires, high heat, and drought is a good start in addressing anxiety about potential disasters and other climate impacts.

Colorado also made unprecedented investments in mental health this year. The Behavioral Health Administration, which will help coordinate care and funding streams for that care, has been created and hundreds of millions of dollars have been directed to all levels and types of treatment.

Although progress has been made, Colorado must continue its efforts to give people access to mental health services and improve the resilience of their communities. Our leaders at the local, state and federal levels must meet this challenge head-on by fighting climate change through aggressive action and ensuring that all Coloradans have access to the mental health resources needed to cope with the increased stress brought about by the climate. disasters that threaten our communities.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported network of news outlets and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact editor Quentin Young with any questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

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