Climate change is one of the most talked-about topics in political, social media, and media circles. The stress of weather events that cause excessive damage and the rise of morbidity and mortality rates can create an uptick in people seeking mental health or substance addiction treatment.
Climate Change Background
Weather events like hurricanes, floods, wildfires, drought, or excessive heat can take a physical and mental toll. Researchers believe the impact of climate change on people and communities is indisputable and often permanent. The World Health Organization states an increase in deaths beginning in 2030 and ending around 2050. As the death rate increases, so can the often unrecognized deaths due to mental health disorders.
Climate Change and Mental Health
Elevation of sea levels, rising temperature, and other weather events can affect people’s psychosocial and mental well-being. Some psychological disorders that increase when climate change-related natural disasters occur are:
- Attempts at suicide
- A recurrence of bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse
Researchers discovered a possible link to heat, humidity, and mental health disorders as the temperature rises and more people are exposed to the effects of heat. With the increase in heat comes an increase in aggressive behaviors. They found extreme heat increases the rate of mental health morbidity in those with substance abuse issues.
Climate Change and Substance Abuse
The opioid epidemic highlights how substance abuse and climate change are connected. A look at drug-related deaths in 2016 showed over 63,600 people overdosed. Deaths related to:
- Synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and tramadol, increased
- Heroin deaths due to an overdose steadily increased
- Deaths due to semisynthetic and natural opioids, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, also increased
Ways to Help Those With Substance Abuse Disorders
Climate change-induced weather events won’t stop. To help those with substance use disorders (SUD) cope with the circumstances, consider the following suggestions:
An open, honest conversation about climate change can include recognizing its dangers. A discussion that includes replacing passive responses with active responses can decrease a mental health disorder linked to climate change and substance addiction. Some ways are:
- Acknowledge the magnitude of the problem
- Discuss how they plan on addressing the problem
- Set a plan and a goal
- Take action
- Become Involved
Some clients may not know where to start once they set a plan or a goal. There are various ways they can become active in the fight to mitigate the effects of climate change:
- Becoming involved in groups focused on policy change
- Working with community-based groups
- Helping programs that work to preserve the environment by planting trees and other plants that can combat the increase in harmful gases
- Comprehensive Care
Comprehensive care combines a traditional method of therapy with holistic therapies. The combined or comprehensive approach can reduce mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, PTSD, or bipolar disorder. Coping techniques like yoga, meditation, or activities based in a natural environment can reconnect the mind and body. For example, in Japan, a practice referred to as “forest bathing” is an approach to reduce stress and anxiety. Forest bathing is the act of unplugging from technology and spending time in nature.
- Re-Connecting With Nature
Not everyone has access to a forest, but most have access to a park or an area dedicated to nature. Other options to convene with nature are a beach, a lake, or a mountain. Outdoor activities or social interactions increase feelings of well-being, reducing stress, anxiety, or mental fatigue. A few outdoor activities include:
- Outdoor sports such as tennis, volleyball, and golf
- Yoga, Meditation, or Breathwork
If a client is not interested in engaging in physical activity while enjoying nature, they can practice their breathwork or meditation techniques.
Some can feel uncomfortable practicing yoga by themselves while outdoors. They may feel less embarrassed by finding a group that practices yoga in a park or beach. Being in nature is a great way to re-connect with the earth while also benefiting from social interaction. Yoga classes are also available indoors if the outdoors aren’t available.
Focusing on your breath is less attention-getting than yoga. A person can find a comfortable spot, relax, and focus on their breathing. The benefits of being outdoors can enhance the experience.
Spending time in a natural environment while taking part in an activity that makes someone happy or brings them peace is essential to a person’s mental well-being. Another positive aspect of spending time in a natural environment is teaching a client to incorporate healthy habits that decrease the urge to use alcohol or drugs.
Climate change occurs across the globe and may impact many people’s physical, mental and psychosocial well-being. Finding ways to alter harmful thoughts, feelings or behaviors can decrease the risk of substance abuse.
Climate change can have an impact on every aspect of a person’s life. The increase in heat, hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires can affect people’s mental well-being. The increase in mental health disorders and substance addiction is an unfortunate side effect of any weather disaster. Guiding a client towards healthy behaviors can reduce their risk of substance addiction and help decrease depression, anxiety, stress, or PTSD. Alta Centers recognizes the particular needs of their clients and shapes their treatment plans to deliver the care required. They specialize in detox and provide therapy to help guide a client to recovery. They provide the highest level of commitment and care to those who dare to get sober and remain sober. Alta Centers helps clients understand recovery does not have to mean the end of their lives; it can be life-enhancing and provide a new, healthy start to achieving their goals. Call Alta Centers for more information (888) 202-2583.