Climate Mental Health


For mental health support activities on listening and validating feelings, please see the Emotions Wheel, Facilitating Discussions and Creating Solidarity, Active Listening Skills, and Connecting with Special Places in Nature

Listen, without trying to solve, fix, or dismiss

Learn to be with other people's feelings. Listen to and encourage the sharing of personal stories (Eco Anxiety: A Call to Action YouTube video), such as experiences with natural disasters, family beliefs about climate change, or experiences with unfair processes and systems that exacerbate the impacts of climate change. Acknowledge how people are feeling about the climate crisis and provide support in dealing with these feelings. Role-playing and perspective-taking can be useful tools to understand other points of view and how climate change is an example of the tragedy of the commons (World Climate: Climate Change Negotiations Game).

Youth often develop their strategies to cope with climate change-related emotions. Learning from young people's coping strategies and engaging already present skills can help educators to build on, strengthen, and promote adaptive coping mechanisms. The best way to understand how students cope is to ask them. After acknowledging the emotions associated with climate change, ask "What do you do to make sense of or move forward in light of all of the impacts of climate change? How do you cope?"

Provide compassion, care, and empathy. Show authentic curiosity

Listening without disregarding people's beliefs honors their opinions and is an important step to building trust. It is helpful to empathize and apologize to youth about the state of the climate that current and previous generations have helped create and let them know it is okay to be angry. Open, reciprocal communication supports youth in using their coping strategies.

Remind youth they are not alone in feelings and share that many people are working on this problem; it is not solely up to them

According to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, over 4.1 million people were employed to work on climate change mitigation in 2020, and jobs related to climate change mitigation and adaptation continue to grow. This number does not even account for all of the people who are currently making changes in their personal lives, or who are willing to make changes to their behaviors.

According to PEW Research Center, 80% of people worldwide are willing to make changes to how they work and live to reduce the effects of global climate change.

Invite all voices to the table

Give youth practice using their voices and make space and opportunities to do so. Invite all generations to the table when making plans and implementing solutions around climate change impacts. Include frontline communities in discussions about climate and climate solutions. Such conversations could happen as a Zoom panel or through oral history projects for youth.

Be aware of "settler privilege" 

Recognize the impacts of colonialism and place emphasis on listening and empathizing with those that have been and are actively and disproportionately impacted by climate change events. Invite youth voices to be at the heart of conversations.

Create a safe environment for sharing, using group norms and restorative practices  

When facilitating conversations, outline what these conversations will look like so that youth know what to expect and make it okay for them to leave the conversation at any time if they are being triggered. Set up alternative assignments or tasks, fun exercises, or other forms of coping with the potentially heavy subject matter, and a non-stigmatizing "face-saving" option to go elsewhere (ex. Text instructor to go the bathroom).

Create a safe environment and a sense of agency by outlining group norms, such as using "I" statements, ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak, and that it is okay for them to take a break if needed. Acknowledge potential challenges and highlight strengths and coping skills.

Use restorative practices to help youth feel valued, connected, and able to talk through negative emotions.