Now that climate change activists have freaked people out with their apocalyptic predictions of doom for the planet, apparently people in droves are seeking mental health therapy over the issue, prompting the American Psychological Association to create a voluminous climate-change guide as an aid for mental heath care providers.
Climate change linked to greenhouse gas emissions has created record high temperatures and more extreme storms, droughts and wildfires. Those climate change-related natural disasters have had a profound negative impact on the mental health of survivors of these extreme events, according to the United Nations. Suicides have increased, as have depression, anxiety, stress, grief, anger and PTSD. Even for people who aren’t directly affected by natural disasters, climate change is causing measurable mental distress. Higher temperatures alone have led to more suicides and increased psychiatric hospitalization and have hurt our sleep, which can also harm mental health.
Susan Clayton, one of the authors of the 69-page APA guide, told CNN, “The psychological responses to climate change such as conflict avoidance, fatalism, fear, helplessness and resignation are growing. These responses are keeping us, and our nation, from properly addressing the core causes of and solutions for our changing climate and from building and supporting psychological resiliency.”
The APA guide first makes claims that the climate change we are living through is unprecedented:
From wildfires and drought in California to severe flooding in Maryland to Alaskan communities threatened by rising seas, we are clearly living through some of the most severe weather events in U.S. history as a result of damage to our climate. These impacts on our environment will, in turn, affect human health and community well-being.”
The guide repeats claims made in various studies, citing statistics from a period of one year in one case: “Climate change is creating visible impacts worldwide, including many here in America. As seen in the tripling of heat waves between 2011 and 2012, weather patterns introduce lasting impacts, such as food insecurity (Duffy & Tebaldi, 2012; Hatfield et al., 2014).”
Other claims: “Similarly, rising sea-surface temperatures have been connected to increasing rates of disease for marine life and humans (Doney et al., 2014). Sea levels are estimated to increase anywhere from 8 inches to 6.6 feet due to warmer temperatures by 2100, putting 8 million Americans living in coastal areas at risk for flooding (Parris et al., 2012).”
The study warns, “Perception is difficult,” adding:
Although most people are generally aware that climate change is occurring, it continues to seem distant: something that will happen to others, in another place, at some unspecified future date (McDonald, Chai, & Newell, 2016). Psychologists refer to this idea as psychological distance. Terms such as “climate change” and “global warming” draw attention to the global scale rather than the personal impacts (Rudiak-Gould, 2013). Additionally, the signal of climate change is obscured by the noise of daily and seasonal weather variation (Hulme, 2009; Swim et al., 2009; Weber & Stern, 2011). All this makes the issue easier for people to push aside, particularly when faced with other pressing life issues.