Whether you’ve heard it on the news, social media or have experienced it on your own flesh, Climate Change is a major issue in the international agenda. Still, it seems like some authorities don’t seem to quite understand what’s going on: they deny it, blame it to different circumstances or just don’t give it the importance it needs. As a result, our planet is dying and sometimes it’s very difficult to see things changing or have a positive perspective about the future. If you’re feeling like this, well, you’re not alone.
What’s Climate Anxiety?
Climate anxiety is, according to the American Psychological Association, “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. For some researchers, this is a natural and expected response to our world’s situation, but other experts in the field have spoken about its negative effects on our mental health. Susan Clayton, in the 2017 report “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance”, describes the negative emotions towards Climate Change as “a necessary part of fulfilling life”, but warns about how the constant fear, the hopeless and overwhelming feeling it causes, may develop into extreme emotional responses affecting our ability to make decisions and process information. From experiencing an extreme weather event (or hearing other people’s experiences) to the feeling of uncertainty we get about our planet’s future, the impact on our mental health is rather negative.
So, what can we do about it?
Climate change is real, and scientists have been warning us for years. Still, we have time to save our planet and fight both climate change and climate anxiety at the same time, by turning our fear into positive actions.
Clayton proposes different levels from which we can take action, and I’d like to point out the following two:
At home or in community, there are actions that can make you feel a greater sense of self-security, such as caring for your habits to make them as healthy as possible and building a strong social network with neighbors, friends and family.
To support communities:
As an individual, organization, and mental or public health professional, you can help to alleviate your community’s negative emotional outcomes towards climate change by focusing on the people’s concerns and making climate-mental health an issue of matter and give it the importance it deserves.
Everyone has their own way to cope with stress, fear or anxiety, so this may or may not help you (I hope it does, though). In the times running, it is important to remember that around the world, many people are working to stop climate change and they are getting positive responses, but we still have a lot to do and there are many ways to help save our planet, from the simple act of recycling or reducing our plastic consumption to joining an environmental organization. We can transmute the feelings of anguish that climate change causes us, we can turn them into a call to action and help, but we cannot make climate anxiety invisible and it should be an issue to be addressed internationally to ensure that all those who suffer from it can cope with it in the best, positive way.