OPINION

How are people coping with climate grief?

How are people coping with climate grief?

Everyone copes with disaster and loss differently. But this year, as we near the anniversary of the deadly Black Summer bushfires and prepare for floods and cyclones brought on by La Nina, more people are seeking help for "climate grief".

Just last week, researchers at Deakin and Monash universities released a public survey, asking people to describe how they're coping with eco-anxiety.

As an associate lecturer in social work at James Cook University in Townsville, I'm in contact with many social services organisations.

Being one of Queensland's extreme weather hot spots, I spend my days focused on people often affected by weather events because the loss stemming from natural disasters has such an effect on mental wellbeing and resilience.

Magnifying these impacts is the roll-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the gaping holes in employment.

While more people are needing support, services struggle to meet demand.

This is always the case after extreme weather events.

People lose their homes or are unable to pay for repairs. Some properties become uninsurable, or premiums soar.

Those who can, move to 'safer' ground while those who can't afford it are stuck.

People with low or no income don't have many options and are more likely to be impacted by issues like depression and anxiety, which consequently also often impacts on physical wellbeing.

I've seen overuse of painkillers, smoking, drinking and substance use, resulting in medical issues such as cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

There can be a rise in crime rates, including domestic violence.

All this puts strain on governments for more funding of health care, law enforcement and social services.

Extreme weather events cause huge problems, but people who are already disadvantaged and marginalised are often pushed further to the edges of society.

Long-term planning could alleviate much of this.

Moving towards sustainable practices in goods and energy production, like investing in renewable energy to bring down prices, could have substantial mental health benefits.

We must look to industries that create good, clean jobs to move forward.

If you're feeling some eco-anxiety, let the researchers know the big picture about mental health impacts of climate change.

If this year has taught us anything, it's that we're all vulnerable to something and climate change is having an impact on each of us. It's what we do now that can make a positive difference.

Sandra Croaker lives in Townsville and is part of Social Workers for Climate Action. To view the survey, visit www.deakin.edu.au/tempcheck