The University of Winnipeg



Mental health and climate change

New content has been added to the Prairie Climate Centre's Climate Atlas of Canada

The Prairie Climate Centre’s Climate Atlas of Canada has been updated new new mental health and climate change information.

In honour of World Mental Health Day, which took place October 10, The University of Winnipeg’s Prairie Climate Centre (PCC) has released new content related to mental health and climate change on the Climate Atlas of Canada. The educational articles and videos are available to view now. 

We need to cultivate hope and resilience on a personal and community level that is sustainable over time if we are going to address these large-scale problems.

Rhéa Rocque

A growing number of Canadians are suffering from mental health impacts associated with climate change, especially after a summer defined by record-breaking climate impacts across the country. These impacts may include stress from being evacuated from home, anxiety from experiencing heat waves and other risks, and general climate grief when contemplating potential impacts and challenges for current and future generations. 

These new resources created by PCC aim to increase awareness, empathy, and action to respond to the mental health consequences of climate change. The development of this material was led by the PCC’s recent Post-Doctoral Fellow Rhéa Rocque, who specializes in the psychology of climate change. 

“Understanding and talking about our emotions related to climate change is an essential part of allowing us to be part of the solutions long term,” said Dr. Rocque. “We need to cultivate hope and resilience on a personal and community level that is sustainable over time if we are going to address these large-scale problems.”

The new articles and videos explore mental health impacts, lived experiences, and coping strategies:

  • Climate Change and Mental Health This article gives an overview of the ways in which climate change can affect people’s mental health through experiencing climate events, observing environmental change over time, or simply having acute awareness of the issue. 
  • Why Hope Matters In this video, author and expert Dr. Elin Kelsey explains the importance of finding hope in the face of the climate crisis, and offers tips on where to look for it. For Dr. Kelsey, hope is a “brave political act” that requires courage and commitment in the face of uncertainty. 
  • Taking Action on Our Climate Emotions – Since climate change is a long-term threat, we must learn to cope with the potentially difficult emotions that it may cause to ensure our well-being over time. This article discusses strategies for coping with climate distress, including working through emotions, taking action on climate change, and reframing the threat to find hope. 
  • Overcoming Climate Anxiety:  A Father’s Journey Through Climate Emotions Dustin Thiesen, a Winnipeg father and former engineer, shares his experience of climate anxiety and how he continues to find ways to cope and stay motivated.

This work is funded by a Public Health Agency of Canada grant — Stories of Health and Hope — held by Dr. Ian Mauro, PCC’s Executive Director and Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, who supervised Dr. Rocque’s post-doctoral research at UWinnipeg.

“Dr. Rocque’s invaluable expertise helped to broaden the research taking place at PCC,” said Mauro. “It reminds us that while we work towards healing the planet, we must also take care of ourselves, and restoring this balance is critical to solving the climate crisis.”