The following is an excerpt from an op-ed that I wrote for the News & Observer:
The climate crisis is a mental health crisis, and our children are among the most vulnerable.
For families, climate-driven extreme weather, like intense heat days, wildfires and hurricanes—like Hurricane Ian—is taking a toll on our mental health. It’s time for Congress to act.
A 2021 Lancet survey of over 10,000 young people found that 75% of youth around the world think the future is frightening, and 45% reported that climate distress has a negative impact on their daily lives.
Climate anxiety is prevalent in North Carolina too. According to the Yale Program on Climate Communication, 72% of my fellow Durhamites are worried about global warming, as are 73% and 70% of Orange and Wake County residents. In Mecklenburg County, it’s 71%.
Recently, I was in Washington, DC, with young climate activists to talk to Congress about the impact of climate change on their mental health. They asked House members to co-sponsor House Resolution 975. Written by two high school students, the legislation advocates for incorporating mental health into disaster preparation efforts, including increasing access to treatment. This is the generation that will carry the heaviest weight from the climate crisis.
Organized by a group called Schools for Climate Action, the middle and high school students met with over 65 congressional offices to share personal stories of how climate change is impacting their mental health.
We heard from students who’d lost homes and beloved community resources to out-of-control wildfires, students whose asthma is exacerbated in extreme heat, and students with debilitating climate anxiety. We heard stories from students whose parents struggled for months to find them a therapist after experiencing traumatic climate disasters.
Climate change is affecting the mental health of much younger children too. High levels of childhood stress, like the stress of experiencing a climate disaster, can affect long-term brain development. When children are exposed to traumatic events, they may experience post-traumatic stress disorder and depression to a greater degree than adults.
Read the full article here: Climate change isn’t only changing the weather, it’s changing our children