How to manage your mental health in a heatwave


Warm weather is something many of us look forward to. But a heatwave can have a severe impact on our mental health. Aisling Traynor, Head of Advice and Training at Rethink Mental Illness, discusses how extreme heat can affect people living with a mental illness and offers some practical tips.

Many people will be struggling with fatigue, irritability and low mood brought on by the hot weather during the day and broken sleep at night.

But soaring temperatures can have a particularly significant impact on people living with a pre-existing mental illness. Whether that’s the turn in the weather triggering manic episodes in people living with bipolar disorder, or people experiencing depression or anxiety finding that their symptoms worsen in the sweltering heat.

Certain medications prescribed to help manage the symptoms of a mental illness can also make you more susceptible to struggling in the heat.

For example, antipsychotic medications prescribed for conditions such as schizophrenia can lead to overheating because of the impact they can have on the body’s ability to regulate temperature. And excessive sweating is listed as a side-effect of certain SSRIs, a type of antidepressant.

However, it’s important not to stop taking your medication without medical advice. Speak to your doctor if symptoms related to the heat are troubling you.

Things to do in a heatwave

Everyone experiences heat differently and, if you live with a mental illness, here are a few ways to stay on top of things:

  • Drink small amounts of water often
  • Wear loose, light clothing
  • Keep windows open but block out sunlight from your home, especially in the room where you sleep
  • Learn about the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, just so you can spot these if they do arise
  • If your condition worsens, get in touch with your GP

If you’d like more information about living with a mental illness,
visit our advice and information pages.