How the environmental decline can affect mental health

Cristian Barcaru
Cristian Barcaru • 26 June 2023

                    How the environmental decline can affect                                                mental health

As our planet faces unprecedented environmental challenges, it is becoming increasingly evident that the decline of our natural surroundings has profound consequences on mental health. In mental health nursing, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the detrimental effects of environmental decline on individuals' well-being. This article explores the significant impact of environmental degradation on mental health and emphasizes the role of sustainability in mental health nursing to mitigate these effects.

  1. Climate Anxiety and Eco-Despair:

Environmental decline, including climate change, deforestation, pollution, and biodiversity loss, contributes to a rise in climate anxiety and eco-despair. Individuals may experience a sense of helplessness, fear, and grief in response to the deteriorating state of the environment (Mkono, 2020; Stanley et al., 2021). Mental health nurses play a vital role in recognizing and addressing these emotions, providing support, and helping patients navigate feelings of distress related to environmental concerns.

  1. Natural Disasters and Trauma:

The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, have devastating consequences on mental health. Individuals directly affected by these events may experience trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders (Chen et al., 2020). Mental health nurses must be prepared to provide trauma-informed care, offering psychological support and coping strategies to those affected by environmental disasters.

  1. Loss of Connection with Nature:

As urbanization and technological advancements continue disconnecting individuals from nature, a phenomenon known as "nature deficit disorder" emerged (Benevolenza and DeRigne, 2018; Birch, Rishbeth and Payne, 2020; ). Lack of access to green spaces and limited engagement with natural environments have been linked to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Mental health nursing can promote sustainable interventions, such as nature-based therapies, ecotherapy, and horticultural therapy, to reconnect patients with nature and enhance their mental well-being.

  1. Air and Noise Pollution:

Exposure to air and noise pollution has detrimental effects on mental health. Poor air quality and constant noise can increase stress, sleep disturbances, and cognitive impairments (Bakolis et al., 2020; Nieuwenhuijsen, 2021). Mental health nurses can educate patients about the impact of environmental pollutants on mental well-being, advocate for cleaner air regulations, and support interventions that minimize noise pollution in healthcare settings.

  1. Displacement and Environmental Migration:

Environmental degradation, coupled with the effects of climate change, often leads to forced displacement and environmental migration. Individuals uprooted from their homes and communities due to ecological factors face increased risks of mental health challenges, including anxiety, depression, and feelings of loss and grief (Palinkas and Wong, 2020). Mental health nursing should address the unique needs of displaced individuals, providing culturally sensitive care and assisting in the resettlement process.

  1. Sustainable Solutions and Resilience-Building:

Incorporating sustainability into mental health nursing practices is essential to address the mental health consequences of environmental decline. By promoting sustainable lifestyle choices, eco-friendly interventions, and community resilience-building initiatives, mental health nurses can empower individuals to mitigate their environmental impact and develop coping strategies to navigate the psychological effects of environmental decline (Colding and Barthel, 2013; Kadaverugu et al., 2022).


The interplay between environmental decline and mental health is a pressing concern that requires immediate attention in mental health nursing. Recognizing the impact of ecological degradation on mental well-being is crucial for providing holistic care to individuals and communities. By embracing sustainability and advocating for environmental protection, mental health nurses can contribute to preserving mental health while promoting a healthier, more sustainable future for all.



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Stanley, al.  (2021) From anger to action: Differential impacts of eco-anxiety, eco-depression, and eco-anger on climate action and wellbeing. The Journal of Climate Change and Health, 1(1), p.100003. doi:

Resource author(s)
Cristian Barcaru
Resource publication date
June 2023