Climate Mental Health

Self-Care, Staff Wellbeing, and Role Modeling

Of course, climate change effects on mental health are not limited to youth – adults experience similar direct and indirect effects. Working with distressed youth may trigger our own anxious feelings about our future. We may feel overwhelmed, guilty, ashamed, out of our depth, and only just coming to terms with our own feelings. Compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout are also common experiences.

Teachers, caregivers, and other role-models play a key role in supporting youth, but in order to do so, we must "put on our own oxygen mask first" by taking steps to acknowledge and develop coping strategies to address our own emotions related to climate change (see "Social, emotional, self-regulation, and coping skills"). Youth will be looking to adult role models to follow their lead in adopting positive coping mechanisms – and actions speak louder than words.

Self-care practices can help teachers and staff to protect their well-being. Learn and apply self-soothing strategies such as the Pause-Reset-Nourish framework. Learn more.

  • Pause to take a slow breath and become aware of what is going on in your body; 
  • Reset your mind through meditation, doing something that brings a smile to your face or talking to yourself as you would with a caring friend;  
  • Nourish your mind and body. For example, reminding yourself of your ability to be resilient and take care of yourself. Be kind and compassionate to yourself. Ensure that you are getting adequate sleep and exercise. Talk with a trusted friend about how you are feeling. Acknowledge how your identities are being impacted and find ways to get support from those who share your identities or are allies who understand how these traumas and stresses are impacting you.  Identify people who can support you. Acknowledge that this is tough. Ask for help. Here is a list of therapists and groups trained to support emotions associated with climate change. Join groups (link to Join and Cultivate Community and Connection). These behaviors can help work through emotions in order to move on and help others.