Capitalist Greed: Destroying Earth and Us Along with It

Robbie Blankenship

Often, in the media we are exposed to the importance of ending climate change. Along with that, we’re exposed to an abundant amount of mental health awareness. What isn’t told as often is how they blend. How can two such different and detrimental problems in our world go hand and hand? Well believe it or not, climate change affects more than just the earth; climate change is inimical to the mental health of people all around the world.

There are two different ways that climate change can affect our mental stability: directly and indirectly. The direct effect means that people experience psychological responses to personal exposure as a result of the consequences of climate change. An example would be you and your family experiencing a natural disaster. The indirect effect is experiencing psychological responses to watching or reading about climate change and natural disasters from afar. For instance, reading a scientific report of a natural disaster.

When thinking about specific direct climate change effects on mental health, it’s important to know the statistics. According to the American Public Health Association, 56% of adults and 41% of children suffer from clinically diagnosed mental health disorders after a natural disaster. Some of the most commonly faced disorders are depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, some also face relapses in bi-polar disorder, many of the disorders on the anxiety spectrum (insomnia, irritability, etc.) and are at an exponentially higher risk of developing acute stress reaction and adjustment disorder (ASD). Another major byproduct of facing a natural disaster is substance abuse. After experiencing such a traumatic event, the victims are likely to become vulnerable to addiction in looking for ways to cope.

Aside from natural disasters, there are a few other direct effects of climate change on our mental health. As climate change worsens, the earth’s temperature increases. Studies reveal that in hotter temperatures we are likely to act more irritable and aggressive, along with the fact that suicide rates increase to a higher than average quantity. The hotter the temperature, the more serious the effects. Additionally, poor air quality has been proven to increase the risk of illnesses such as anxiety, schizophrenia, and personality disorder.

The other type of effect climate change has on our mental health is the indirect effect. It’s most commonly present in “eco-anxiety” which can be defined as “an extreme fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster.” Eco-anxiety is on the rise in Americans right now due to the present and anticipated effects on the earth caused by human-made climate change. The symptoms of eco-anxiety are relatively the same to those of typical anxiety disorders — its difference is just the root of the anxious feelings. Those who suffer from eco-anxiety often suffer from aggression, fatalism, fear and helplessness.

The people who are most often directly and indirectly affected by climate change are those in lower socio-economic housing and people of color, specifically indigenous folks, as they are more at risk to face natural disasters. These mental health issues are severe and as the younger generations continue to fight more against climate change, WE will be the ones, along with the people of color and lower socio-economic housed families, facing increased rates of mental illness. The fossil fuel industry, big animal agriculture, and corporate executives won’t be affected. Yet, they’re the ones continuing to cause the degradation of our planet without a drop of guilt regarding the mental stability of it’s young people they take down with it. The politicians who are refusing to sign the Green New Deal are not only contributing to the downfall of the planet, but adding immense amounts of mental illness into those fighting to stop them. It’s time to stand up against them and fight for a planet where everyone is held responsible for how their actions affect the mass, rather than themselves. It’s time to end the toxic, overshadowing stigma around mental health in all generations. In a society that suffers so greatly from suicide and mental illnesses, it is absolutely imperative that we can begin to talk about mental health comfortably and honestly.

If you feel you are suffering from a mental illness due to climate change (or anything else), it’s best to acknowledge how you feel and find someone to talk to about it. It can simply be a parent or a friend, but if you are willing and able, try getting connected to a professional. You can use therapy or a health professional but you can also call the free hotlines (listed below) to talk as well.

We, at Ohio Youth Climate Strike, are on a path to end climate change, destroying the mental health issues it creates. In working together to change it, we are taking the first step to a better world, and we want YOU to come take it with us!

Hotlines:

Suicide:1–800–273–8255

Depression: (877) 870–4673

General Crisis: Text SUPPORT to 741–741

Mental Health: 1–800–950–6264

Robbie Blankenship (she/her) is a 17 year-old student from Anderson High School. She’s been with Ohio Youth Climate Strike since the fall but has become more active since the start of spring. She is a stage manager for Anderson Theatre and a member of Young Activists Coalition as well as her school’s Hope Squad. Robbie is a huge advocate for mental health and hopes one day, we can live in a world without injustice.

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