Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

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Climate Disasters and Mental Health in Youth

May 02, 2024


Interviewee: Maggie Sugg, Ph.D.

In this episode, NIEHS-funded researcher Maggie Sugg, Ph.D., talks about how climate disasters affect mental health in youth. She also discusses some strategies to promote mental health resilience in young people and communities affected by disasters.

Climate Disasters and Mental Health in Youth

People who live through a climate disaster, like a flood or wildfire, may experience trauma, displacement, or food and water insecurity. These stressors can contribute to mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

Children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to disaster-related stressors because their brains are still developing, and they may lack emotional coping skills. Young people from low-income communities face an even greater mental health burden, as they often have fewer resources to prepare for and recover from climate events.

In this episode, we’ll hear from Maggie Sugg, Ph.D., who is examining how climate disasters affect mental health in youth and what factors may promote mental health resilience in young people affected by climate disasters. She hopes her research can help communities, clinicians, and counselors better respond to climate-related mental health needs.


Maggie Sugg, Ph.D.

Maggie Sugg, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Appalachian State University. Her research focuses on the patterns of environmental illnesses over space and time, and how these patterns relate to environmental, socioeconomic, and climatic factors. Her NIEHS-funded research, conducted in collaboration with Jennifer Runkle, Ph.D., focuses on the effects of climate change on maternal health and mental health in youth.



  • Sugg M, Wertis L, Green S, D Singh, Runkle JD. 2023. Cascading disasters and mental health: the February 2021 winter storm and power crisis in Texas, USA. Sci Total Environ 880:163231. [Abstract]
  • Runkle JD, Michael KD, Stevens SE, Sugg MM. 2021. Quasi-experimental evaluation of text-based crisis patterns in youth following Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, 2018. Sci Total Environ 750:141702. [Abstract]