Climate Mental Health
Listen and Validate Feelings
Many youth feel that it is socially not welcome to talk about their concerns or anxiety around the impacts of climate change, leading to feelings of isolation and hopelessness. Nearly half (48%) of youth have been dismissed or ignored by other people when they try to talk about climate change. Over 60% of youth feel that their governments are failing them in not adequately addressing climate change, are misrepresenting the impacts of actions taken, and are dismissing people's distress. Youth often feel that their opinions don't matter to society until they are old enough to vote. It is critically important that our youth feel heard by adults, including caregivers, teachers, and the leaders of our governments.
When teaching about climate change, one of the most important interventions that teachers and caregivers can employ to address climate-related distress is simply to create a safe space for youth to share and be heard. Include discussion and normalization of feelings about climate change. It is okay for people to be angry, grieving, anxious, and overwhelmed. Even feelings of denial or apathy are a normal part of the grieving process (see "Moving Through the Grief").
Listen, without trying to solve, fix, or dismiss
- Have the Talk: Climate Conversations CLEAN resource is an effective resource to help youth have conversations with their family about climate change, with a large emphasis on listening.
- Talk Climate website offers resources and activities devoted to climate and mental health organized by age categories and describes strategies on how to talk about climate with youth. This helpful infographic outlines some simple strategies about how to talk about climate with youth.
Provide compassion, care, empathy and show authentic curiosity
- Podcast: Talking with Children about Climate Change from the Climate Psychology Alliance provides strategies for how to listen and speak with youth using authentic curiosity.
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
- Project Drawdown is the world's leading collection for climate solutions, and has numerous examples of people all over the world currently working on solutions.
- Eco-anxious stories offers a collection of reflections by people surrounding various emotions related to climate change.
Invite all voices to the table
- How to Engage With Frontline Communities to Deliver Climate Solutions at Scale provides strategies on authentically listening, engaging community, and elevating marginalized voices.
- How to Amplify Student Voice: Listen provides strategies for how to engage student voices in discussions.
Be aware of "settler privilege"
- An Existential Toolkit for Climate Justice Educators has a variety of resources that explore decolonization & reconciliation, antiracism, and intersectionality within the lens of climate change.
Create a safe environment for sharing, using group norms and restorative practices
- Emotional Resilience Toolkit for Climate Work from the Climate Therapy Alliance includes facilitated discussions and activities designed to build emotional resilience for climate work, categorized by age group.
- Talking Climate Handbook – How to Have a Climate Change Conversation from Climate Outreach outlines how to have effective climate conversations, including with youth and with people who are strongly opposed to action on climate change.
- Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles guide provides a variety of activities and instruction for using restorative circles.