The Pre-Traumatic Stress of Climate Change

Should we put in a fence? One day this Spring I looked out at my backyard and saw a security risk instead of a green space for relaxation. I'm a naturally optimistic person, but somehow the truth about the irreversibility of climate change got to me. I briefly imagined fighting for my survival: barricading off our dead-end street and hoping the neighborhood gardeners would take pity on this religious professional with few practical skills.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren studies the mental health effects of climate change. She would describe my worries as an example of "pre-traumatic stress": vague but inescapable fears of the coming climate catastrophe. Dr. Van Susteren points to multiple ways that climate change will have a significant impact on mental health: trauma and dislocation from storms, food shortages, and the resulting failed states; inflammation of brain tissues from prolonged heat eposure; grief at the loss of unique places, cultures and species; and anger that leaders and previous generations failed to take action. Our ability to stay centered in what really matters, to start over after a loss, and to find hope and connection in a changing world will be more important to our long-term security than any fence.

See a short video of Dr. Van Susteran talking about climate and mental health.
Read Dr. Van Susteren's call to the mental health profession to take climate change seriously.
Learn Dr. Van Susteren's strategies for caring for your mental health while working for climate justice. 

 

 

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