Climate and Mental Health
Climate and Mental Health – a challenge for everyone
CWT are proud to announce that we are committed to reaching net zero by 2040. We are actively taking steps across our entire charitable operations and activities to reduce our carbon emissions and our carbon reduction journey has begun.
Our sustainability group meets every 2 months to keep us on track with progress and to drive cleaner green initiatives. We believe this is important for us as an organisation and that it also has wider impacts on mental health and wellbeing.
Climate change poses a threat to all our futures and has particularly significant implications for the health and futures of children and young people, yet they have little power to limit its harm, making them vulnerable to increased climate anxiety. That anxiety has become known as eco-anxiety, and while there is no clear definition, it has been explained by the American Psychological Association as ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom.’
The impact on mental health
The impact of climate change on mental health is not widely acknowledged or discussed, but through its work in schools, colleges and universities, the Charlie Waller Trust is hearing increasing awareness, concern and anxiety created by the impact of climate change and the perceived lack of action by communities, businesses and governments.
Evidence is building about the impacts on mental health of heatwaves, wildfires, storms, and other climate-related disasters. There are predicted to be longer term impacts when communities and populations are displaced as a result of climate change.
Action to address climate change is by necessity a global undertaking involving significant change to how systems and economies function.
So how does this affect children and young people?
A recent survey of 10,000 young people aged 16-25 in 10 countries found that:
- 59 percent were very or extremely worried about climate change.
- Over 50 percent felt sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless and guilty.
- Nearly half (45 percent) said that climate change is affecting their daily lives – how they play, eat study and sleep.
Climate change has significant implications for the futures of children and young people, but they have little power to limit its harm, making them vulnerable to increased climate anxiety.
That anxiety is also associated with perceptions of inadequate action by adults and governments, leading to feelings of betrayal, abandonment and moral injury. Young people feel that they are not being listened to – their thoughts and feelings are not being respected or validated; and people in positions of power are not acting on their concerns.
Companies and governments need to do something – I don’t understand how they don’t seem to care about the future
A young member of the Charlie Waller team, Natasha Austen, says: “There’s a generational divide – young people blame the older generation. I feel it’s important to lobby against the big organisations that are doing the most damage. Companies and governments need to do something – I don’t understand how they don’t seem to care about the future. I feel disempowered. The people who could do something aren’t.”
At the Charlie Waller Trust we are embedding our Environmental policy and including climate knowledge throughout our charitable activity to to help children and young people feel more hopeful and to provide tools and support to prepare them for the times that lie ahead.
Top tips for children experiencing eco-anxiety
- Be aware of the situation – keep up to date with information about the environment either by talking to an adult or looking up a reliable website. But take care not to overload yourself with too much information.
- Take time to focus on other things and activities that you enjoy.
- Understand, experience and cope with the feelings that come up. Remember that these feelings are a sign that you care about other people and the environment. Express how you feel – that could be by writing, creating art or playing music.
- Stay hopeful and connected. Talk to people – there are many others feeling the same way. Remember there are lots of people working on solutions that will help make the world happier, healthier and safer.
- Spend time in nature – this could be playing or reading outside, planting seeds or walk somewhere you live.
- Take action and do something differently, however small it feels. Always remember that this is everyone’s responsibility, not just yours.
- Think about connecting with groups of young people, either in your local area or online, who feel the same way. Make changes that feel right for you – for example planting wildlife friendly flowers, reducing the amount of rubbish you make or talking to your family about ways you can all help, such as eating less meat.
This advice is based on information given by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
The Charlie Waller Trust
The Charlie Waller Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales 1109984. A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales 5447902. Registered address: The Charlie Waller Trust, First Floor, 23 Kingfisher Court, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5SJ.
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