It can be stressful and scary to think about climate change impacts now, in the future, and particularly for our young people. There is a lot that needs to be done and it can feel overwhelming.
Social determinants of health will impact people’s ability to prepare, respond and recover from climate change events. Supporting mental health and addressing eco anxiety, fostering great relationships, and supporting the vulnerable are key actions.
1. Support Mental Health and Address Climate Change
Sackville groups such as EOS Eco-Energy and IRIS Community Counselling have offered workshops on how to deal with climate change stress and eco anxiety. More climate change stress workshops should be offered. They could be coordinated for co-workers, parents, volunteers, students, and the community as a whole. Climate stress is a normal part of addressing climate change challenges and needs to be acknowledged and supported at the community level. It means that we care about the issues and that is a good thing. Coming together in workshops offers a community-based approach where participants can lean on each other and learn a variety of coping strategies. Ultimately, participants learn how to harness stress into fueling positive climate action at home and in their communities. Action is the perfect remedy for despair.
Here are some ideas that can be done at home, with friends, family, co-workers or as part of a community program:
- Spend time in nature
- Find ways to relax and recharge: garden, read, yoga, dance, meditation, sports, paint, etc.
- Talk to friends, family, counsellors about your concerns, or attend a workshop
- Eat well, stay active and be healthy so you have lots of energy
- Tackle one action at a time, focus your actions on what you are good at
- Don’t feel guilty about what you cannot control, focus on what you can control
- Focus on positive changes and celebrate small victories
- Make changes at home to be more sustainable
- Get prepared, have an emergency kit, learn traditional skills, etc.
- Get involved to influence big changes, join local organizations, volunteer with political parties, run for local government elections, etc.
- Contact CHIMO mental health crisis line in New Brunswick at: 1-800-667-5005 or http://www.chimohelpline.ca/
2. Foster Great Relationships
It is important not to feel alone in our efforts to adapt to climate change and build community resilience. It can be a group or community effort. Resilience includes fostering a safe and supportive community. Community members should be kind and support each other during hard times. A community needs to support those who are socially disadvantaged so that they too can contribute to a resilient community. Everyone needs someone they can depend on. How do we ensure a caring, inclusive and supportive community? Sackville is fortunate to have great organizations like Daybreak, a community centre for adults with mental health challenges, and Open Sky Co-op, a farm setting which serves adults with mental health challenges. Mount Allison University also has programs to help new students meet others and connect with local residents.
3. Support the Vulnerable
Like every community, Sackville has residents who are vulnerable. To be fully resilient, all members of a community must have the resources and supports they need. Who in Sackville is vulnerable, and what do they need to be resilient? Everyone needs affordable housing, food, security, income, etc. Without the basics, it is hard to focus on anything else. Community discussions are needed about equity, diversity, social justice and how they influence community-based climate resilience. Often the most vulnerable are also the most impacted by climate change. Creating a community connection program, or Buddy System, is a great way to connect people. Mount Allison University students started a program to connect seniors during the pandemic called Community Connect. Offering a Sackville Nursing Home without Walls program, similar to the one in the Port Elgin area, could also be greatly beneficial to Sackville area seniors and help connect seniors to support services. Students reported that more affordable housing units are also needed in Sackville.
 The 14 social determinants of health include: Aboriginal status, gender, disability , housing, early life , income and income distribution, education, race, employment and working conditions, social exclusion , food insecurity, social safety net, health services, unemployment and job security.
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