Mental health, well-being, and the climate crisis

The climate crisis is a humanitarian crisis. Climate change is already contributing to humanitarian crises and climate and weather extremes are increasingly driving displacement in every region of the world. This undoubtably has an impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people affected by climate change and extreme weather events. The climate crisis has both direct and indirect effects on mental health and psychosocial wellbeing. Climate change exacerbates many social and environmental risk factors for mental health and psychosocial problems and can lead to emotional distress, the development of new mental health conditions and a worsening situation for people already living with these conditions.

The mental health impacts of climate change range from minimal stress and distress symptoms to clinical disorders. These range from anxiety and sleep disturbances to depression, post-traumatic stress, and suicidal thoughts. Other consequences of climate change may include the effect on individuals and communities in their everyday life, perceptions, and experiences, having to cope, understand, and respond appropriately to climate change and its implications. News regarding climate change can also make people uncertain and stressed, even depressed and with a sense of powerlessness.

MHPSS and The Climate Crisis guide

This short workshop activities guide can help start conversations about navigating climate change anxiety.

Emerging concepts

A range of new terms and concepts are helping researchers and those working in mental health and psychosocial support better understand the impacts of climate change on mental health. This is an evolving area of research, but some terms include:

  • Climate anxiety – distress related to worries about the effects of climate change. It is anxiety rooted in uncertainty about the future and alerting us to the dangers of a changing climate. Anxiety about the climate is often accompanied by feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and shame, which in turn can affect mood, behavior, and thinking
  • Eco-anxiety – general term to describe anxiety associated with the perception of environmental changes
  • Solastalgia – distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment
  • Ecological grief – the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental change
  • Climate grief – refers to feelings of sadness, loss, and anxiety in response to climate devastation

Video: An IFRC Red TAlk about climate anxiety and how to cope with it

There are multiple ways climate change affects mental health outcomes

The WHO have outlined several different pathways and interlinkages between climate change and mental health and psychosocial outcomes. These include climate change related hazards, environmental threats, socioeconomic and vulnerability factors, and inequalities.


Building resilience of young people affected by the climate crisis

Webinar, French Red Cross

Link to RCRC Climate Centre

The Climate and Environment Charter for Humanitarian Organizations

Video: Climate change and humour in a humanitarian context