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Climate change might be melting the ice caps, but our fear of environmental armageddon has manifested into a legitimate disorder.
We’re truly living in an enlightened time. While some of us deny the existence of climate change, there are others who believe that it to be a legitimate way to get out of work.
Let’s dig a little deeper. The environmental apocalypse that we’ve enabled, and will surely see the seas rise, boil and wash all over our shit is a terror that we’re not prepared to face, both in a literal sense, and a mental one.
Psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren coined the term “pre-traumatic stress disorder” to describe the pervasive dread felt by many scientists, advocates and journalists. In the years ahead, she said, the problem will only grow more widespread.
Van Susteren is the co-author a 2012 report on the psychological risks of the carbon crisis. Like other studies on climate change and mental health, the report warns of anxiety, depression, violence, suicide and drug abuse in the face of increasingly perilous storms, heat waves, floods and drought.
As the authors noted, “The American mental health community, counsellors, trauma specialists and first responders are not even close to being prepared to handle the scale and intensity of impacts that will arise from the harsher conditions and disasters that global warming will unleash.”
In response to our growing climate of angst, a handful of psychotherapists are pioneering a new field of treatment, termed “ecopsychology.” Doctors are going green with ennui, urging their patients to accept their own powerlessness, and take as many breaks from society as possible.
There seems to be a clash and a sense of the difference between the death that will inevitably come to us all, and the same death that we’ve sort of enabled. This is especially the case in the wake of a natural disaster, as Hurricane Maria sparked a mental health crisis in Puerto Rico, with many suffering instances of PTSD. In fact, after many years of decline, the suicide rate spiked in the months after Maria.
People were shaken by the catastrophic storm, but that they had become increasingly fearful about the future, often to the point of mental paralysis.
So, we can consider it a legitimate mental concern, so how do we deal with it? I mean, other than the incremental solitary change of refusing plastic bags, or bringing your own cup to your barista each morn, I suggest we handle this new fear of death in the same way we do other kinds, accepting that we’re doomed, and enjoy what time we have not thinking about it.
After all, it is a lovely day outside.