Most of us have probably heard or even used the expression “feeling under the weather” before, but can the weather, or to be more precise, severe weather, have an impact on our moods and mental health?
According to a recent report, climate change is leading to an increase in the rates of depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress as well as substance abuse.
Loss of social cohesion
Australian Scientists from the Brain and Mind Research Institute have come to the conclusion that more people are suffering from mental health problems because of “loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change”.
“The damage caused by a changing climate is not just physical” they said in the report
“Recent experience shows extreme weather events also pose a serious risk to public health, including mental health and wellbeing, with serious flow-on consequences for the economy and wider society.”
According to the paper, one in 10 primary school children reported symptoms associated with post traumatic stress after Cyclone Larry in 2006.
The report also states that one in five people suffer from “emotional injury, stress and despair” after severe weather events.
“There’s really clear evidence around severe weather events” said Professor Ian Hickie, director of the Brain and Mind Research Institute.
Hickie reckons that climate change and severe weather will play a major part in influencing our mental health in the future.
“When we talk about the next 50 years and what are going to be the big drivers at the community level of mental health costs, one we need to factor in are severe weather events, catastrophic weather events” he said.
“What we have seriously underestimated is the effects of climate change on social cohesion… that is very hard to rebuild and they are critical to the mental health of an individual.”
Over in the US, Jeffrey Katz, a Clinical Psychologist and American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Chairman for South Eastern Virginia, has some advice for those suffering in the wake of hurricane Irene.
In the Daily Press Katz recommends eating well, keeping hydrated, maintaining normal routines, talking to those around you, and not getting ahead of yourself if there’s a lot to do.
If after a few months you are still feeling depressed, are not interested in things you used to do, and have difficulty eating or sleeping, then you may benefit from seeking professional help.