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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Effects of climate change and COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

Davis has several resources for mental health accessible to both students and locals

    A survey by the US Census Bureau showed that symptoms of depression or anxiety have increased 11% from 2021 to 2022. Students and members of Yolo County believe climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic may have a toll on mental health.

Cool Homes Campaign Manager Leslie Crenna emphasized how climate change impacts mental health. She explained that people respond differently to climate change; some are overwhelmed, and others are in denial. Many react with paralysis, meaning they continue their usual routine, not knowing what to do.

    “The idea that we are destroying the ecosystem and really putting our livelihoods at threat, and civilization at threat, is incredibly intimidating,” Crenna said. 

    Crenna detailed that the climate change concept can be so overwhelming that people often feel unsure where to start. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the average ocean temperature and global land in January 2021 were the seventh highest for January since 1880.    

“It is an emergency. Human beings are not wired for a threat that isn’t super concrete and right in front of us, so it’s hard to wrap our brains around science,” Crenna said.

    Aparna Manoj, co-director of the student-run UC Davis Mental Health Initiative (MHI), discussed efforts taken to support student mental health. MHI has been focusing on running the Mental Health Conference in January and Mental Health Awareness Month during May. They have also been making efforts to host regular events throughout the quarter, like educational workshops. MHI has been working on integrating student voices into campus-related initiatives. 

    “Our workshops tend to be again focused on some sort of intersectional aspect of mental health,” Manoj said.

    Manoj explained how MHI incorporates cultural identities with mental health; during events, the initiative often brings a professional or community member. Students will hear about resources, participate in discussions and engage in activities. 

    Manoj recommends students to find a center related to their specific needs on campus. 

“Make sure you’re seeing a licensed professional or use the center to find other Shillong resources in the community related specifically to counseling,” said Manoj.

On the UC Davis campus, Aggie Public Health Ambassadors (APHAs) address mental health through encouraging others and community building. The APHA program originally started to educate members about making healthy choices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Caroline Dewa, Director of Health Education and Workforce Development of Healthy Davis Together, discussed how the program addresses mental health throughout the pandemic.

“Social distancing and shelter-in-place orders caused social isolation and made it challenging to access mental health resources,” Dewa said. “The pandemic has also been a part of our lives for more than a year and is a source of long-term stress, another factor that impacts mental health.”

Dewa mentioned that the APHA team program puts emphasis on the team to address mental health. The pandemic has lasted for over a year, and it could be a source of stress for many, including staff workers. Members have the opportunity to work and look out for one another, lessening feelings of isolation. 

“This gives the APHAs the mental health resources they need personally which helps them better serve the community and ultimately help others across the campus community to access the resources they need,” Dewa said via email.

Dewa also recommended utilizing resources from Healthy UC Davis Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Written by: Ellie Lee — city@theaggie.org


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