This article was written by Beyond Blue Lead Clinical Adviser Dr Grant Blashki

Climate change is real and understandably distressing for many people.

There is a strong scientific consensus that climate change is one of the factors contributing to extreme weather events. These include the worsening bushfires and floods we are seeing in Australia, and affect our physical and mental health.

Australia’s average temperature has risen by more than a degree since 1960. Some 80 per cent of people in Australia believe we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, with 82 per cent concerned that climate change is going to result in more bushfires.

What does climate change mean for our mental health?

There are several major ways that climate change can negatively affect our mental wellbeing.

While climate anxiety is not a distinct clinical condition, many people report feeling anxious as a result of climate change.

Some are directly impacted from being caught up in extreme weather events, such as droughts, fires and floods, of which there have been devastating examples over the last year. The psychological effect of these events, such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse, can persist and may not emerge until months or years into the future.

There can also be a broader community feeling of anxiety about climate change. Many people are worried about what this is going to mean for their way of life. Climate change can impact our livelihoods, our families, the environment we live in and the viability of our communities.

Landscape of Australian outback bushland

How to manage worry about climate change

For those concerned about climate change, especially young people who are very aware of the related issues, there are a number of things they can do:

  • Try to keep things in perspective, as there are many global issues that the world has had to contend with, and this is a challenge for this generation.
  • Never feel like you have to manage the problem on your own and get involved with other people who are also concerned about climate change issues.
  • Take time to switch off from bad news if you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Put your energy into being part of the solution.
  • Working to cultivate hope is an important protective factor against being overwhelmed by climate anxiety.
  • Actively look for positive things that people and organisations are doing to combat climate change rather than focusing on inaction.
  • Action is a great stress reliever. Even taking small actions in your day-to-day life to help reduce emissions contributes to solving the problem, which can help you feel better.
  • To learn more, check out Climate Change Anxiety and our Mental health by psychologist Susie Burke.

If you feel that worry about climate change is extending into an overwhelming sense of anxiety or depression, seek professional support.

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