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Are You Suffering from Climate Depression, too

Climate depression is getting worse around the world. What is it?

These days, more and more people feel helpless looking at the weather. Looking at the ever-changing weather, you feel negative emotions such as depression, helplessness, and sadness. This is a more complicated feeling, not just a gloomy feeling because of the bad weather. This is called climate depression and it is one of the real-life depressive disorders also called climate anxiety, climate sadness, and ecological anxiety.  It's chronic stress. In addition, anxiety about global warming is one of the symptoms. This includes insecurity about countries reeling from climate change. In some cases, they complain of deep depression in society's indifference, not the gloomy climate outlook itself. They feel despair in a society that does not take measures despite the seriousness of the climate disaster. Symptoms such as panic attacks, loss of appetite, and insomnia are also showing, and the number of people with these symptoms is increasing day after day.

In 2017, the American Psychological Association defined it as a depression disorder, and in June, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the need for state support for the seriousness of climate depression. As a result of a survey of 2017 over eighteen by the American Psychological Association in 2019, two out of three respondents (68%) said they felt anxious about abnormal weather. In particular, half (47%) of the respondents aged 18-34 said that the stress they feel about climate change affects their daily lives. In addition, in May, the U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warned in its annual climate report that global temperatures could rise by more than 1.5 degrees in the next five years compared to pre-industrial times. Experts say that climate depression is no longer a matter for others as mental health worsens in proportion to climate change. In September last year, six universities, including Bath University in the UK, jointly surveyed 10,000 young people aged 16 to 25 in 10 countries, and more than 45% of the respondents said that concerns about climate change negatively affect their daily lives. In addition, studies have shown that air pollutants directly affect mental health. The American Psychological Association (APA) announced in its journal Developmental Psychology that the higher the ozone concentration, the faster depression can increase throughout youth development. The younger you are, the more you can suffer from climate depression due to the direct influence of the weather. Young people are prone to climate depression with a sense of fear of facing more disasters from the climate crisis in the future.

The economically vulnerable people are also more sensitive to psychological problems caused by climate depression. Brendon Barnes, a professor of environmental hygiene at the University of Johannesburg, explains, "In the case of the economically vulnerable people, the negative effects increase due to the combination of existing economic and psychological problems and climate depression." In other words, if they lose their homes or are psychologically hit hard by the climate disaster, they could face an impossible situation. In fact, according to a study published in 2020 by the Roman Catholic University of Medicine, vulnerable citizens are most likely to suffer mental problems caused by climate change. In particular, the study analyzed, Climate disasters destroy the social network of vulnerable citizens, adding, the resulting lack of communication, disconnection of relationships, and lack of emotional sharing have a great impact on mental health.

In addition, farmers who directly feel the climate crisis suffer from heat waves and heavy rain, and they feel loss and anxiety due to falling crop production. Crops, the main means of livelihood for farmers, vary greatly in production and quality depending on the climate. Therefore, poor crop yields maximize farmers' depression. Additionally, the suicide rate of farmers due to climate depression has increased in the past few years as the recent crop failure caused by abnormal weather has continued. In July 2017, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)  estimated that more than 59,000 people have committed suicide across India over the past 30 years due to global warming. It also said that if the temperature rises by one degree Celsius, 67 more people will commit suicide across India. It is not just farmers who are at increased risk of suicide due to climate depression. In August 2018, a study conducted by four universities, including Stanford University in the U.S., estimated that at least 9,000 to 40,000 additional suicides could occur in the U.S. and Mexico by 2050 when climate change is at its worst.

Anxiety and depression caused by the climate crisis eventually cause social problems. One of those problems is the phenomenon of avoiding childbirth. Anxiety over the climate crisis is leading to low birth rates, and many experts warn that the higher the awareness of the climate crisis, the lower the birth rates will be. CNBC, a U.S. economic media outlet, also released a similar analysis in September last year. Fears of climate change will speed up the pace of low birth rates, with many determined not to give birth to any children ever. According to a 2019 poll by U.S. economic media outlet Business Insider, 38 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 said climate change should be considered when planning for children. A research team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the U.S., compiled data from 1931 to 2020, and reported that birth rates decreased after record heat waves occurred. In addition, the Birth Strike movement against the climate crisis began in the UK in 2018. Led by British social activist and musician Blyth Pepino, the group is campaigning not to have children unless it comes up with measures to prevent the climate crisis. Britain's Prince Harry also said in interviews with various media that he would have only two children, and that the reason was environmental problems.

Then, what should we do when symptoms of climate depression appear?

Non-profit organizations dealing with climate depression are appearing in Europe and North America. Representatively, the Climate Psychology Alliance and the Good Griff Network are conducting psychotherapy and depression prevention programs for disaster victims and climate depression patients. Psychological experts point out that an integrated management plan that considers both social and psychological impacts is needed, not just environmental issues. In response, Merritt Juliano, co-chairman of the North American branch of the Climate Psychology Federation, said, "It is natural for people to feel anxious and depressed due to increased risk from climate change," adding, "We need to identify the psychological problems of social members and help them overcome them."

 If you worry alone, you may not be able to overcome your feelings of helplessness, making it difficult to get out of the depression. Since the climate crisis is not an individual problem, but a task that society must work together to solve, climate depression is also not a problem that can be solved alone. Experts say that talking with people with similar concerns and anxiety and taking action together helps relieve climate depression. It is also better to start with the small things you can do to cope with climate change than to fall into depression while encountering negative news and stories. These seemingly small practices, such as reducing plastic, reducing disposable products can help prevent climate change.