With large parts of Australia on fire, the air filled with smoke, and people’s lives increasingly impacted, it’s an important time to talk about the way climate change can affect people’s mental wellbeing. Looking after the mental health of our caring and concerned citizens is yet another reason for Australian and World leaders to take urgent climate change action.
Climate change doesn’t just hurt the environment, the economy, and our physical health. As we adapt to unprecedented weather events or disasters, we also have a psychological response, which can be stress, anxiety, depression and grief. For many, it’s difficult to see forests burn or communities damaged by fires, to feel the negative impacts on their physical health or daily activities, and to think about a future where climate change worsens.
This concern over the climate breakdown, sometimes called ‘eco-anxiety’, is increasingly common and is even a recognised area in the field of psychology.
But if you’re feeling alone, you’re not. And while there is sadness, remember there is also hope.
As Minister for both Climate Change and Mental Health in the ACT, I believe there is still time to make a difference, and many of us are working hard to make sure this happens. Inspiring people are making a real difference. Thousands of local leaders around the world are defying the dinosaurish attitudes of their national leaders and taking meaningful climate action. Greta Thunberg is Time’s Person of the Year, and the school climate strikers she’s inspired are changing people’s attitudes. Even as the Federal Government fiddles, Australia is installing new renewable energy faster than anywhere in the world.
At the individual level, taking action to reduce emissions and finding like-minded people to talk to, and work with, can be a source of strength and hope. Your community actions make a real difference, whether that is participating in a local environment group, or joining protesters and demanding action from the Government.
Remember to look after yourselves and your friends and family; to keep striving for change; and to maintain hope that we can meet the climate change challenge and foster a healthy and liveable world for ourselves and future generations.