Climate Change & Mental Health
According to studies from the American Psychiatric Association, increased levels of natural disasters due to climate change contribute to various anxiety and trauma. People who are exposed to long-term heat waves are known to have increased usage of alcohol intake to manage their stress. On top of that, domestic violence cases and aggressive behavior is correlated to extreme weather events. Climate Change mental health resources are unavailable for many communities and lack the appropriate resources to assist communities.
Frontline communities that are composed of Queer and Trans folks, People with Disabilities, People who experience homelessness, People who are chronically ill, the Elderly, and Youth are most often forgotten in these types of conversations. Globally speaking, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color from low-income communities face the highest rates of climate change mental health-related issues.
Youth & Climate Change Mental Health
Studies have shown that children are more susceptible to developing trauma when natural disasters strike. This can be because of family stress in trying to find the next plans, seeing their community be taken away, or displacement of the home environment. While the youth are the least responsible for climate change, they are the ones that will face the largest burden. First responders who have to go to natural disaster zones are also seeing the devastating effects it has on the youth and are not equipped to support children regarding their mental health.
Situating emotions and feelings can provide clarity and intention when discussing these types of mental-health-related issues. Emotions and feelings are interconnected, and emotions represent bodily actions. Feelings are the conscious experience of emotional reactions. Currently, there are nine based emotions and feelings when using the Climate Scale Framework Eutierra, Soliphilia, Solastalgia, Eco-Anxiety, Eco-Phobia, Eco-Guilt, Eco-Grieving, Tierratrauma, and Eco-Rage.
Eutierra – The Interconnectedness Of the Whole
The term was coined by Glenn Albrecht, who looks into the feeling of being interconnected to Earth and finding peace. Those who experience Eutierria may have a positive feeling when it happens and can understand the interconnectedness of environments and self. “We experience the state of Eutierria when we are feeling the oneness of the Earth” (Albrecht 2018). He expressed that when one is in the “boundaries between self and the rest of nature are obliterated, and a deep sense of peace and connectedness pervades consciousness.”
Soliphilia – The Love For Place
“Love of the interrelated whole.” (Glenn Albrecht 2018). Soliphilia looks into the love and appreciation for a location, bioregion, and planet that is deeply rooted in interconnectedness. Many people have deep-embedded relationships with their home environments that allow them to cultivate, regenerate, and construct healing practices that are circular in unison.
Solastalgia – The Sorrow For Place
Solastalgia is a concept that looks into giving emphasis and meaning to environmentally induced stress (Albrecht et al. 2007). It looks into the anxiety and sorrow a person feels when their natural environment is impacted, especially when directly relating to their home environment. When natural home environments are altered, it affects the person on a physical level and a psychological level. It is noted that “societies whose livelihoods are not closely tied to their environment are not as likely to express solastalgia and, in turn, societies that are closely tied to their environments are more susceptible.”
Eco-Anxiety – The Anxiety For Earth
Eco-Anxiety is the anxiety about the future of the natural environment. This type of anxiety can worry about the future of ecological disasters that are set to happen as the climate crisis continues to worsen. Rising carbon emissions, melting of glaciers, land deforestation, oceans collapsing, and increasing global temperature lead to our increased anxiety levels. In society, we have eco-psychologists that encourage individuals to adopt environmental-based values in their lifestyles.
Eco-Phobia – The Detachment Of Response & Action
Simon C. Estok coined Ecophobia. It described the fear and discernment over the planet being unliveable in the future. During COVID-19, there was a fear of a shortage of resources from food, water, and other materials in the Global North. For many people in the Global North, ecophobia can cause a sense of removal and shock.
Eco-Guilt – The Regret Of Knowing You Can / Could Have Done More
The feeling when one feels they could have contributed more to help the Earth. This type of guilt is rooted in the fact that many people are privileged to have been able to live a life that wasn’t necessarily being impacted by climate change. It also highlights how the individual focuses on blame for themselves rather than focusing on external systems that were in play.
Eco-Grieving- The Tears For Earth
Eco-Grieving is not linear. Ecological-Grieving is “associated with the physical disappearance, degradation, and/or death of species, ecosystems, and landscapes (Cunsolo, Ellis 2018). This type of grief is notably noted by researchers as disenfranchised grief, or grief that is not publicly known or talked about. People were noted to process eco-anxiety through stages of grief. During this time, people are encouraged to form support networks at this stage.
Tierratrauma – The Pain Of The Earth
Tierratrauma is the sudden grief or pain a person experiences when witnessing a traumatic environmental change. Glenn Albrecht notes that when you experience Tierratrauma, “it’s like an acute Earth-based existential trauma in the here and right now”. This can be seen in various events such as land destruction, forest fires, floods, tornadoes, demolition of your streetscape, oil spills, and people in their environment being severely hurt and displaced.
Eco-Rage – The Anger Towards Colonial Systems
This anger is stemmed from the system and people in power that continue to allow the degradation of the Earth. For many BIPOC communities globally, colonialism has had huge impacts on their ecosystems that prevented them from being able to practice their ancient regenerative practices.
Validating Earth-Based Emotions & Feelings
As natural disasters increase over the next few years, it’s important for people to associate their feelings and emotions with words. The Climate Scale framework is for people to use and build upon.