Climate Mental Health

Individuals can select their level of impact based on their interests, needs, and constraints. Collective action can be especially helpful as it creates a community that supports youth resiliency and leverages our relationships to inspire additional action.


For mental health support activities on encouraging and taking action, please see the Connecting with Special Places in NatureVisioning PossibilityClimate Solutions, You are a Climate Leader, and Nature Appreciation.

Focus on solving one small part of the climate crisis instead of the whole thing

Start with small actions within students' control. Look at the climate crisis as a collection of challenges to tackle rather than trying to solve the entire climate crisis. Sharing examples of how youth across the globe have taken action to support climate change mitigation and adaptation with your students can provide inspiration, motivation, and increase efficacy.

Nurture student-guided and personal agency 

Guide youth towards self-generated solutions that are within their control and personally relevant to encourage agency and empowerment. "Town-watching" has become a useful way for people in Japan and Europe to become more aware of their communities and the potential impacts of and solutions for natural disasters. In town-watching, people walk around town taking photos and notes of various places in their communities, identifying areas that could be susceptible to natural hazards, identifying equipment or spaces available to handle natural hazards, and then creating a community map to ultimately identify solutions. Collecting data on climate impacts in one's community is another effective way to make the issue personally relevant. Citizen science projects such as ISeeChange or CoCoRaHS allow students to explore and record changes in their environment under a changing climate.

Personal planning for the impacts of climate change, such as creating emergency-preparedness kits can foster a feeling of preparedness and help overcome anxiety about possible natural disasters. Include comfort items such as special blankets, toys, photos, journals, or religious or spiritual items.

Foster care and empathy for nature through play and exploration  

Care of the natural world should be fostered early by encouraging personal, place-based action that cultivates enjoyment of nature. A common theme of worry among youth is the impact that climate change has on animals, providing an opportunity to engage students in caring for the animals and plants in their backyards and schools.

Build a positive connection with nature through art, play, exploration, meditation, and reflection.

Shift Westernized thinking of humans as separate from nature to being a part of nature.

Support collective problem-solving  

Invite youth to the table or encourage them to lead community-level action based within a project-based learning framework. "Trying to think just about how you can reduce your personal emissions can feel really lonely, whereas being part of something bigger, finding a community to take action together with -- I think that's a much more empowering way to think about climate change and centers the conversation around those who are responsible for the crisis, which isn't you as an individual." (Morgan Edwards, Climate Action Lab, Univ. Of Wisconsin)

Take action to influence policy 

Research indicates that youth's climate anxiety and distress are often linked to a perceived inadequate government response. Connecting youth with advocacy groups whose aim is to affect policy can empower them and give them a place for their voice to be heard by policymakers.  Encouraging students to meet with congressional leaders, write letters or tweets to policymakers, and teach others in their community about legislative solutions are other direct actions that students can take to impact policy.

Be aware of intersectionality when implementing climate action  

When taking action, be aware of the history of intersectionality and Climate Change.  Engaging multiple generations, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in collective action brings in different perspectives, inspiring solutions that incorporate the needs of diverse communities. Find common ground with those that find the proposed solutions threatening livelihoods or cultures.