Natural Disasters: The Invisible Mental Health Crisis

While ‘ecological anxiety’ sounds like a condition primarily seen in hiker-biker kale-eating hippies, mounting evidence points to the strain that severe weather phenomena can impart on any individual’s mental health.

“Disasters confront the brain’s core organizing principal; [mental and physical] safety” says Dr. Evian Gordon.

Disasters may force people to contend with personal injury, death of a loved one, loss of personal property or pets, not to mention federal aid forms. Feelings of fatalism, fear, uncertainty, and despair overwhelm individuals, and represent a secondary disaster.

To offer some perspective, after the U.S.’s hurricane Katrina, in 2005, suicide rates spiked and 49% of those affected reportedly developed an anxiety or mood disorder.

In November of 2017, The New York Times wrote of Hurricane Maria, “The violent winds and screeching rains…were a 72-hour assault on the Puerto Rican psyche. There are warning signs of a full-fledged mental health crisis on the island, public health officials say, with much of the population showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress”.

During that same period, due to the heinous wildfires in Northern California, supervisors in Sonoma county prepared to receive roughly $900,000 in federal funds to help cover mental-health-related costs.

Mental health needs our attention.

Those watching disasters unfold on TV are at risk as well; people are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that historically unprecedented or distinctive weather patterns can pop up nearly anywhere, at any time.

The American Psychological Association recommends the following tips to help support individuals going through bouts of ecologically induced stress.

  1. Build resilience. Resilience is the ability to be flexible, and to adapt during uncertainty.

2) Foster optimism; helping people to move forward with their lives.

3) Cultivate active coping and self-regulation skills.

4) Maintain practices that help provide a sense of meaning.

5) Promote connectedness to family, place, culture, and community.

Platforms like MyBrainSolutions are designed to help you transition through challenging times. MyBrainSolutions offers proven methodologies for improving resilience, positivity, thinking, feeling, connection and recovery.

Cultivate the inner strength to prevent that second disaster.

By: Shira Landau and the MyBrainSolutions team.

Disclaimer: The opinions above are of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of MyBrainSolutions. The post is for information only and is not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one’s own healthcare professionals.


Akpan, Nsikan., Brangham, William., and Osman, Eric. “Why The Paris Talks Won’t Prevent 2 Degrees of Global Warming.” Public Broadcasting Service, 2nd, December 2015.

Clayton, S., Manning, C. M., Krygsman, K., & Speiser, M. “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance”. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, and ecoAmerica, 2017, pp-1–69.

Cooper, Anderson. “New Orleans’ Suicide Rate Nearly Triples”. CNN. 27th June, 2006.

Dickerson, Caitlin. “After Hurricane, Signs of a Mental Health Crisis Haunt Puerto Rico.” New York Times, 13th November, 2017.

Gordon, Evian, personal communication, 2018.

Morris, J.D. “Board of Mental Health Sounds Alarm Over Potential Mental Health Crisis Caused by Sonoma County Fires.” The Press Democrat, 4th November, 2017.

Schlanger. Zoe. “We need to talk about “ecoanxiety”: Climate Change is causing PTSD, Anxiety and Depression on a Mass Scale.” Quartz, 3rd April, 2017.

Waters, Brad. “Eco-Anxiety and the Symptoms of ‘Going Green.’” Psychology Today, 22nd March, 2011.