Beyond Gloom and Doom: How to teach climate change towards empowerment
In response to the climate crisis, many around the world, especially young people, have reported feeling overwhelmed, powerless, sad, and anxious. Overlooking emotions while learning about crushing climate data can cause anxiety, and helplessness, and impede our ability to learn and take action. How do we support youth in stepping up rather than shutting down?
The following pages offer a brief review of strategies and resources for processing climate change-related emotions inspiring action together and hope for the future. These pages are not a replacement for services from a mental health professional. Please seek professional help if any of your students or you are at risk.
The goal is to facilitate the expression, processing, and validation of youths' climate emotions while also encouraging positive emotions and reducing stress.
There are both direct and indirect ways that climate change can affect mental health in youth. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change highlights the increasing impacts of climate change around the world such as droughts, famine, heatwaves, species die-off, increased intensity of hurricanes and wildfires are reality and projected to increase.
Direct impacts: Research has shown that natural disasters that can be attributed to or that were magnified by climate change have a direct, significant impact on mental health and well-being.
Indirect impacts: Anxiety about the effects of climate change on our current and future lives (eco-anxiety), worry or chronic fear of environmental doom are indirect impacts of a changing climate.
Many of the strategies described in the action pages to follow can apply both to students and to teachers and caregivers. As you read through, think about strategies you can adopt to support your students at all age levels, those that you can recommend to your students' parents and caregivers, and those you can employ yourself.