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2022年5月11日 •3分钟阅读

Young people’s climate anxiety is a genuine response to threat, not a mental illness

No wonder children and young people are feeling anxious about climate change. They need validation and support, not a mental health disorder diagnosis, writes Professor Navjot Bhullar.

Young student with head in hands
Young people experiencing climate anxiety need validation and support.

No wonder children and young people are feeling anxious about climate change. While they are set to enjoy a longer life expectancy than previous generations, it will unfortunately be on a planet beset by a chaotic, rapidly changing climate and they will experience more frequent extreme weather events.

What they need is validation and support, not a mental health disorder diagnosis despite a call from some researchers to label climate anxiety as a mental health problem.

However, as outlined in our recent letter in The Lancet Planetary Health, we warn against this approach.

Climate anxiety is common in children and young people. That’s understandable because they are expecting to live longer. This means they will experience more severe consequences of climate change.

Negative emotions related to climate change are a response to the real environmental threat. We must take care not to make it an individual’s problem.

而不是, we need to validate young people’s anxiety as a genuine emotional response and provide adequate support and resources for them.

There are practical ways parents and carers can do this and encourage positive action.

Activities such as gardening, repurposing and recycling, reducing energy use, shopping responsibly, reviewing meat and industrialised food consumption, spending time in nature and advocating for the environment can help mitigate feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. Such meaning-focused coping strategies are useful to activate positive emotion and constructive motivation to manage climate change issues.

Misinformation about climate anxiety prevalence in lower-income countries

Recent claims that climate anxiety is only a problem for lower-income countries is also misleading.

188bet金宝搏官网登录的研究, based on multi-country data, shows no statistically significant differences in climate anxiety between countries with different average incomes.

It is also incorrect to assume that lower-income countries are more directly affected by climate change.

Experiencing climate anxiety is related to how visible the impacts of climate change are. You could live in the richest country in the world, but you may also be threatened by bushfires or flooding each year as we are currently experiencing in Australia.

It is also about the way their country can respond to climate change and adapt to or mitigate risks.

The inaction of governments can also increase feelings of helplessness.

Making climate anxiety a mental health disorder assumes that it is an ‘individual’ issue, or something is broken inside requiring medication or therapeutic intervention.

But climate anxiety really is just an understandable response to situations which appear to be uncontrollable and unpredictable.

Professor Navjot Bhullar is Professor of Psychology at Edith Cowan University specialising in the psychological impacts of climate change on young people.