During the International Summit on Psychology and Global Health earlier this month in Lisbon, psychological associations from more than 40 countries signed a revolutionary proclamation. To help combat #climate change, leaders in psychology from around-the-world have vowed to apply psychological science to jointly advance progress on critical global issues, including the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals. Ultimately, they plan to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”
Just as multiple scientific organizations worldwide have come together to combat climate change, it is no surprise that human science experts are now doing the same. It has long since been known that climate change has harmed the human psyche. On the same token, many of the negative effects of climate change have been a result of human behavior. The anxiety associated with climate change, as well as the notion that human behavior is, in part, to blame for climate change, calls for experts in the psychological fields to rise up and weigh in. Climate change is not just affecting us physically or ecologically, but psychologically and mentally, too.
How Psychology Leaders Plan to Help
The resolution addresses the fact that climate change-related events can result in acute and chronic mental health outcomes, such as stress, PTSD, trauma, substance abuse, and anxiety. To combat these adverse mental health effects, the Psychology and Global Health movement aims to encourage psychological organizations worldwide to collaborate, adapt, and ultimately mitigate climate change.
According to the resolution, the availability of mental health resources and widespread advocacy are of great importance. Psychologists that are backing the resolution are vowing to support communities through better training to help counsel those suffering through a climate change-related crisis, as well as advocacy for public awareness campaigns and other social movements. The goal is to strengthen individuals, as well as their local communities, by increasing supportive interventions for those that are most impacted by climate change.
The APA’s Take on Climate Change
The American Psychological Association (APA) is one of the primary entities backing the Psychology and Global Health movement. Back in 2017, the APA released a 70-page document on the impacts of climate change on mental health. In the document titled Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance, the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on psychological health is explored in depth.
In the report, the APA offers recommendations for how individuals can remain psychologically healthy in the wake of climate change. Fostering resilience, building optimism, using healthy coping mechanisms, maintaining a sense of purpose or meaning, and promoting connectedness among one’s family members, friends, and communities, are recommended if we are to combat climate change anxieties and mental trauma.
The APA report also mentions the difficulties that arise when individuals deny the impacts of climate change. Political divides, psychological distance, and feelings of helplessness have all been found to contribute to individual psychological distress. One of the goals of the APA has always been to increase environmental self-efficacy, which has been shown to incentivize individuals to seek out and be more motivated to work towards climate change solutions.
A Step in the Right Direction for Climate Change
While some communities are still shielded from the present impacts of climate change, most are not. Individuals and communities around-the-world are experiencing mental health issues and anxiety related to global warming and climate change. The resolution set forth by psychological leaders should bring some relief. Without acknowledging the mental impacts of climate change, we cannot hope to bring widespread ecological and environmental relief.
Moving forward, there is hope that psychologists will refrain from compartmentalizing climate change as a separate, political issue and those suffering from climate change-related anxieties will be taken seriously. Climate change is making news headlines on a daily basis, making it nearly impossible to ignore the issue entirely now.
As experts in human behavior, psychologists are in a unique and important position to help relieve climate change anxieties. They are also equipped to help incentivize communities to fight back and change their behaviors. Now that the psychological communities have acknowledged the negative impacts of climate change alongside environmental scientists, there is hope that a better future for our planet may emerge.
Read the declaration for yourself here: https://www.psychologyandglobalhealth.org/