Eco-anxiety over climate crisis a growing problem among young people
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2019 2:43PM ADT
With each passing year we receive more and more information about how earth is in the midst of a climate crisis.
That knowledge, combined with a lack of transformative action, is creating a new kind of unease -- the growing problem of eco-anxiety.
Whether it's a warming planet, rampant pollution, or mass extinctions, people are worried about the future.
Even if you're not familiar with the term, you may be feeling its effects.
Eco anxiety is commonly defined as a mental health disorder that affects people who are worried about climate change
While "eco-anxiety" is not a clinical term or a clinical diagnosis, anxiety is, and medical professionals say they are seeing more cases of clinical anxiety triggered by the climate than ever before.
With sea levels rising, uncontrollable wildfires, widespread flooding, drought and famine, rising temperatures in the climate and in the oceans, and mass migration
Sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg demonstrated her anxiety about climate crisis on the world stage.
"I'm here to say, our house is on fire," Thunberg told world leaders in September at the World Economic Forum.
Not everyone has that platform, but anxiety about the future is real.
"Climate change is creating a range of mental health problems and these problems include stress, depression, anxiety and trauma," said Psychologist Dr. Simon Sherry.
Teachers say an increasing number of students are showing signs of compromised mental health, triggered by the state of the climate and a sense of hopelessness for the future.
"These aren't kids feeling nervous, these are kids with clinical diagnosis, anxiety," said Paul Wozney, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
News headlines, social media feed, or outside your door, it's hard to avoid the grim conversation about the environment.
"I think it is having a major impact," said Alea Varen. "Most people think that pertaining towards fertility and how having children and raising children can be more stressful and anxiety provoking because you have to think about the future of the world."
Matthew Real says the protests at the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge in Halifax on Monday are an indication of how young people feel.
"A lot of people are worried about their futures and it's getting them really riled up," said Real.
On Monday, close to 100 climate change activists blocked access to the Macdonald Bridge in an effort to draw attention to the climate crisis.
"A lot of people from the younger generation, 20s, are not thinking they can have children because the trauma of watching your children die from lack of water, lack of food, or lack of air," said climate change activist Tayla Paul.
For some, eco-anxiety can be debilitating.
"Anxiety, when it's taken to a clinical and diagnosable level, it's massively interfering with a person's day to day life," Dr. Sherry said. "It touches upon what they think, what they feel, what they behave, and often times how their body feels in terms of physiological arousal or tension. We know that anxiety is a very disabling condition."
Dr. Sherry says that in response to anxiety brought on by climate change, people should take an active problem-solving approach toward their anxiety. Things like advocating for the environment, or using public or active transportation.