Emotional RegulationAugust 15, 2023
Empowering Healthcare Professionals Through Group Clinical CounsellingSeptember 5, 2023
As a community, we are going through what are likely some of the most harrowing days of our lives thus far. Our heart goes out to everyone who is on the front lines, who has been evacuated, who is anxiously anticipating the further unfolding of events, and who is offering help to those in need. Friends and neighbours, we are in this together!
One of our Registered Clinical Counsellors who lives and works in Kelowna, Janna did extensive research into the mental health impacts of climate change and extreme weather events during her Masters in Counselling. Based on her research, here are a few practical tips we can use to support ourselves and each other during this truly unsettling, truly unprecedented time:
1. Connect with Your Community
Coming together in community is one of the best things we can do in this dire situation. If you are able, find ways to help people out by donating to support agencies, offering space in your home for evacuees, or volunteering your time.
2. Lean into Relationships
When you are able, be a support to others by reaching out, talking with them, helping them out if needed, and making yourself available. When you need support, reach out to friends, family, and loved ones. There are always people who are able to offer help and people who need assistance!
3. Talk about your Feelings
Any emotional response you are having is normal and valid. If you are afraid, that is completely understandable; if you find yourself in emotional denial, that’s normal too; or if you are feeling positive, energetic, and eager to help – also a normal response! Everyone’s nervous system reacts differently to emergencies. Again, the best thing we can do is lean into our communities in whatever capacity we have.
4. Know Whose Mental Health is at Risk
Not everyone is at equal risk of developing adverse mental health during extreme weather events. Anyone who lives in close relationship with the land is at higher risk. This includes Indigenous peoples, farmers, outdoor workers, and anyone who is concerned about the environment. Minority groups, individuals with a history of trauma, and individuals with already present mental health concerns are also at heightened risk. Take a moment to think about who you know that falls into one of these categories; if you are able, reach out to them.
5. Be Aware of Long-Term Mental Health Implications
- Individuals who have past experience with traumatic events and/or extreme weather can develop longer-term mental health challenges such as Acute Stress Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These conditions do not always develop right away; it can take up to a year or more for symptoms to emerge. Don’t be afraid though – mental health struggles are treatable! Be aware of symptoms associated with these challenges. If you notice symptoms developing in yourself or someone you know, reach out for professional support. Also be aware that experiences of extreme weather and natural disaster can become cumulative, leaving an individual at higher risk of developing adverse mental health in the future.
6. Advocate for Action
Climate change is making extreme weather such as wildfires, droughts, heatwaves, and floods more frequent and more severe. If you are concerned about climate change then find ways to advocate for climate action. Here are some ideas: write to your elected officials, write letters to the editors of your local news outlets, join a climate advocacy group like one listed below, and talk with family, friends, and loved ones about your climate concerns. Research suggests that the one of best things we can do is to use our collective anger, grief, and anxiety to fuel conversations about climate action.
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Written by: Janna DenHaan, RCC
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