Climate change to bring mental health issues: study

Clare Jenkins
Environment Reporter

Climate change is linked to mental health in a recent study by Australian health researchers Helen Louise Berry and Kathryn Bowen and Swedish colleague Tord Kjellstrom. Their study notes climate change will bring more intense, long-lasting weather such as frequent floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters, and that these events, in turn, will affect mental health.

Liz Sokol, Humber coordinator of counseling services, speaks to students who struggle with stress, anxiety and depression on a daily basis. “In a way, climate change could make it worse. If you think about weather getting worse, it wreaks havoc on people’s environment,” she said.
“Major weather such as having a drought can lead to poverty, anxiety, depression, despair,” Sokol added.

Even the theory that Earth will be four degrees hotter in 100 years, will have an effect. “If we sustain long weather such as heat or drought, people get cranky. It gets dangerous and more car accidents occur during sustained hot weather.”

Blair Woolley, 21, a third-year York University psychology student, said she believes sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), could be negatively affected. “SAD is a disorder that causes those who suffer from it to have a negative change in mood as the seasons change.
“For example, autumn can be therapeutic for SAD sufferers but when winter arrives the same person may feel gloomy, depressed and upset for no apparent reason.” Woolley said she believes an extreme weather change could put many SAD sufferers over the edge, as the disorder is very delicate and sufferers easily affected.

Brittany Choban, 20, a second-year Humber Broadcast Television student, first experienced SAD two years ago, causing her to take a year off high school before college. “October and November are the months it affects me most. The weather is normally rainy, cold, dark and dreary.

“I guess you could say the sun is what really does it for me. Without it, I’m sad, depressed, unmotivated, lazy and could cry at any point in the day for absolutely no reason at all,” Choban said. He said with the lack of motivation caused by the change in weather, she struggles with sleeping and her social life diminishes. “I’m not active, and don’t care to go to school,” she said.

Choban takes vitamins B12, C and D to help reach the serotonin levels she lacks during the cold weather. She also says spending time with her loved ones and getting exercise helps her get through the tough months.

“My boyfriend helps to keep my mind off things and going to the gym every day is something to relieve stress.”
Luciana Reis, 19, is a second-year Humber travel and tourism student who is, like many of her peers, at a stressful period in her semester.

“Being a student is stressful in general. You’re trying to finish everything on time while having to work and pay for school. It isn’t easy.”

Reis believes weather changes affect college stress levels.

“I commute every day and waking up is difficult as it is, and it only gets worse when the weather changes. Then you have the stress of dangerous traffic that the weather affects and not to mention the stress of never being certain you’re going to make it on time,” she said.
Kathleen Howard, 24, a graduate of the Environmental Studies program at York University, said climate change affects the mental health of children and the elderly because bad weather keeps them inside. She added talk of climate change is itself causing people stress.

“As a society we’ve become accustomed to seeing terrible floods, disasters and the ‘impending doom of climate change’ thrown at us constantly on the news and we have to deal with that being a part of our lives,” she said. “I think it scares people and concerns them as to how much longer we will get by on this planet and what our hopes for the future are.”