Climate Mental Health
For mental health support activities on incorporating a trauma-informed approach, please see Active Listening Skills
Learn to recognize trauma-related reactions and be conscious of potential triggers
Educate yourself about the nature and impact of potentially traumatic events and chronic stress that climate change topics may cause. This includes the ability to recognize trauma-related reactions in youth and how they may manifest in a learning environment.
Create a safe, caring, and welcoming environment
Safety: Ensure that those in a school environment, both youth, and adults, feel both physically and psychologically safe by creating a safe, caring, and welcoming environment. This may include creating a classroom that is a safe space to ask questions about climate change, share or explore controversial opinions, and reveal differences. Providing breaks, managing your own emotions, and demonstrating compassion and support all help to create a feeling of safety. Work with youth to collaboratively develop a set of ground rules to ensure safety and respect in the classroom, which includes how to disagree respectfully.
Build trust through transparency
Trustworthiness and transparency: Those who have experienced potentially traumatic events around climate change may find it difficult to trust others. To build trust, it is critical, to be honest and transparent with youth, including the realities of climate change and both opportunities and barriers to mitigation and adaptation. Showing unconditional positive regard for youth, focusing on their strengths, and being vulnerable by expressing your own emotions can also help to develop trust.
Identify and reinforce examples of positive peer support
Peer support: Connecting youth with their peers in solidarity about the climate can be powerful. Utilize peer support as a mechanism for establishing collaboration, cohesion, and safety. This may entail stepping back and creating space for youth to discuss and provide support among themselves. The role of the facilitator is to identify and reinforce examples of peer support.
Acknowledge strengths, encourage youth voice and choice
Empowerment, voice, and choice: Identify and acknowledge youth's strengths, including their resilience and ability to survive and positively cope with trauma and stress, especially when related to climate change. Provide education about climate change challenges and topics and then encourage and expect youth to make their own decisions about how they want to discuss and address climate change within and outside of the classroom.
Challenge stereotypes and biases, acknowledge oppression
Cultural, historical, and gender issues: As climate change impacts and topics around climate justice are being explored with youth, be aware of and challenge stereotypes and biases related to culture, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, etc. Acknowledge ongoing and historical oppression and marginalization, including exposure to trauma and stress around natural hazards or climate events. Marginalized communities have been disproportionately impacted by climate change and also face greater barriers to advocating for change.