The Psychological Impacts of Wildfires: Building Resilience in an Age of Climate Change

Talia Bernstein


Climate change is one of the most threatening issues of the twenty-first century, and while more people are being exposed to climate disasters, many others are beginning to experience anxiety due to the overwhelming nature of the climate crisis. As natural disasters increase in frequency and severity, it becomes exceedingly important to understand the psychological impacts of these events. I have researched the topics of climate anxiety and resilience to help cultivate a better understanding of how individuals, communities, and governments can best prepare for and recover from climate disasters. My paper reviews the current climate emergency and examines the physical, economic, health, and public perception impacts of wildfires. I then describe the concept of climate anxiety and how climate disasters impact mental health. As more individuals begin to experience such disasters and express climate anxiety symptoms, we must provide them with the information and resources to motivate them towards action and mental wellbeing. I then focus on the concept of resilience and why it is an essential aspect of individual, communal, and governmental climate change preparation and recovery. I have identified a variety of strategies for how these groups can best respond to climate change, allowing for this part of my thesis to serve as a practical resource for community recovery, disaster management, and sustainability efforts. We must work to establish climate change strategies so that when disaster strikes, we are ready to respond. Informing the public of the severity of climate change and ways they can mentally prepare is an essential first step. By supporting and providing communities with resources now, we will be able to mitigate some of the worst psychological effects of climate disasters, but time is of the essence.