Giving Compass' Take:

• Peter Kalmus discusses the mental health implications of climate change, including suicide and inaction. 

• How can philanthropy help to combat climate-induced melancholy? 

• Learn about the importance of investing in youth mental health

Sometimes a wave of climate grief breaks over me. Usually I don’t mind the grief. It’s clarifying. It makes sense to me, and inspires me to work harder than ever. Occasionally, however, I feel something quite different, a paralyzing sense of anxiety. This climate dread can last for days, even weeks.

So I reached out to Renee Lertzman to gain insight into how we’re coping with such huge impending losses. Lertzman is a psychologist studying the effects of environmental loss on mental health and the author of Environmental Melancholia: Psychoanalytic Dimensions of Engagement.

“There is overwhelming research that distress and anxiety relating to climate is on the rise,” she told me.

If we’re feeling these emotions or if we know others who are, it would be helpful to talk about them.

A 2017 report by the American Psychological Association found that climate change is causing stress, anxiety, depression, and relationship strain. The psychological weight of climate change can lead to feelings of helplessness and fear, and to climate disengagement. Not surprisingly, those directly impacted by climate-augmented disasters fare even worse: For example, after Hurricane Katrina, suicide in affected areas more than doubled; the situation in post-Maria Puerto Rico is similarly dire. In general, suicide is projected to rise dramatically due to climate change; in addition to the psychological toll, our brains don’t respond well physically to excessive heat.

“It’s important to remember that inaction is rarely about a lack of concern or care, but is so much more complex,” Lertzman said. “Namely, that we westerners are living in a society that is still deeply entrenched in the very practices we now know are damaging and destructive. This creates a very specific kind of situation—what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. Unless we know how to work with this dissonance, we will continue to come up against resistance, inaction, and reactivity.”

Read the full article about mental health and climate change by Peter Kalmus at YES! Magazine.