Is Global Warming Causing Stress Among Young Students?

Climate change is a pressing global issue and has only grown in the public eye. After many decades of suspicions and then confirmations of the negative impacts of humans on the environment, there are ever-increasing environmentalist movements that strive to bring awareness to the issue and try to stop and reverse these destructive forces.

The current generation is likely the most vocal and aware of the grave dangers of climate change. Because of the impact of the current environmentalist movement, increased education, and mainstream entrance, many young students are constantly thinking of ways that they can help the planet.

However, the weight of climate change remains heavy. Many young students report increased levels of anxiety and depression and cite global warming as a cause of their “climate anxiety”. Anxiety, especially climate anxiety, can be very harmful, and therapy or counseling as listed here may be a good option to help address it. Climate anxiety, and anxieties in general, should not be taken lightly.

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Why are young students stressed about the climate?

For people who don’t experience climate anxiety or tend to think about the environment, it can be confusing and distressing to see young folks so distraught. Many people believe that young students don’t have much at all to be worried about, except maybe for school and their social lives, and so they shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety.

However, the truth is that this stress can show up in young people for a number of reasons, and should not be discounted. The feeling of responsibility for global problems many generations in the making can be intense, especially as many of the worse consequences of climate change are getting more obvious and are only expected to increase.

1. This is the first time they are learning about the environmental crisis

For many young students, this could be the first time they’ve heard about global warming or at least the first time they are truly aware of what that means. The crisis feels very imminent and scary to them. Science does not lie to spare feelings, and indeed an understanding of the gravity of the situation may be necessary to fight it.

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2. Their brains are still in development

For any young person who is still developing, emotions may feel more intense. This does not mean that they are any less valid or that the stress is less founded in reality. This simply goes to show just how powerful the feelings of stress and anxiety can be for young students.

3. They perceive the impact on both their immediate and long-term futures

Many adults do not necessarily see the climate crisis as a large issue because the consequences seem as though they will only arise once their lives are over. This is not the case for young students who feel as though they will be personally impacted by the consequences.

What can we do about it?

Global warming and the anxiety and stress that individuals may experience surrounding it are not lost causes. Not only is it possible to develop coping mechanisms for the stress, but also to divert the negative feelings of stress and anxiety towards helpful practices that fight climate change.

1. Learn more about ways we can help in our daily lives

One major way for anyone to cope with anxiety is to learn and input concrete practices to counter that anxiety into their daily life. For climate anxiety, this may look like decreasing plastic waste, taking public transportation, or eating lower on the food chain.

2. Increase activism

Many young students look up to other youth activists, like Greta Thunberg, as role models in the fight against global warming. Allowing young students to participate safely in protests and strikes can help them to feel like they are part of the change. Parents can vocally support policies that aim to reduce the effects of global warming and may implement environmentally friendly practices and habits starting at home.

 

3. Attend therapy

Climate anxiety is a real aspect of general worry and can contribute to an anxiety disorder. Therapy can help young students establish personal coping mechanisms for their anxieties that can help them feel better in the long run. If anxiety does not seem manageable on one’s own, consider speaking with a therapist or setting an appointment for your child to do so.

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Climate anxiety is a powerful emotion for a young student, but it is also a sign that this student is a caring, empathetic person. The awareness, engagement, and leadership visible in the next generation may in fact create a better world, free from global warming, for future generations. One must just remember that taking care of one’s own mental health is just as important as the health of the Earth, and self-care will make a more effective, long-lasting activist in the long run.

Impacts of Environmental Crisis on Mental Health

Our environment is deteriorating at a rapid pace which is impacting our daily lives in more ways than one. Environmental degradation is associated with many outcomes that may have direct as well as indirect impact on physical health as well as mental health of human beings. In recent years, the deterioration of the environment has emerged as a key contributor to increases cases of psychological ill-health across the world.

Environmental change–triggered extreme weather conditions, loss of natural environments, changing climate patterns, contaminated food, water and air are now acknowledged as major contributors to PTSD, anxiety, aggression, depression and breakdown of relationships.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health encompasses emotional, psychological, behavioral, and social well-being of an individual. It decides how a human being adapts to stress of life and impacts how we think, feel, and act. Mental health also determines how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Environmental deterioration can cause and heighten pressure and uneasiness, thus unfavorably affecting psychological wellness and forcing people to seek help of mental therapists and psychologists. For example, hurricanes or severe droughts can cause depression, anger, and provoke sadistic attitude.

Everybody is in danger, yet not every person is influenced similarly. People who are more prone to mental health impacts of environmental changes include children, elderly and women. Among disadvantaged and marginalized groups, those with close bonding to the land, such as farmers and tribal communities, are more at risk.

How Environmental Degradation is Aggravating Mental Health?

Each aspect of the environment has an interrelated impact on mental health of human being. For example, children are more prone than young people to changes in their environment. The nascent mind is most delicate in the womb while early adolescence is sensitive to toxic physical, chemical and biological exposures. The harmful emissions from the transportation sector and industries coupled with waste generation from domestic and commercial sectors are the major contributors to modern-day pollution problem.

Social components, including poverty, education, employment, income, security, social support and housing are also determinants of mental health that likewise alter or overstate the impacts of exposures to physical factors in the environment. The total impacts of toxic environmental exposures over the existence course can cause physiological interruptions that persevere in future, and lead to deep rooted hindrances of physical or mental well-being.

Children can be exposed to toxins prenatally, and when they inhale poor air, drink contaminated water, breastfeed, ingest food and contact polluted soil and items. The major harmful compounds in the natural and built environments that influence neuro-development and the mental health include Lead, Manganese, Cadmium, Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons and Organochlorine and Organophosphate Pesticides.

People living in rural agricultural areas are more exposed to pesticides. Overwhelming metal contaminants and pesticides have been found to be agents that help develop Hyperactivity Behavior, including Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Noise and traffic-related exposures in the built environment have been related with poor mental health results.

Major acute mental health effects include trauma and shock, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compounded stress, anxiety, substance abuse, and depression. Major chronic mental health effects incorporate higher paces of aggression and violence, mental health emergencies, an exaggerated feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, or fatalism, fear, and loss of emotions. Thus, the prevalent environmental crisis can intensify chronic symptoms and lead to more serious mental health issues in all parts of the world.

BetterHelp.com offers access to licensed, trained, experienced, and accredited psychologists (PhD/PsyD), marriage and family therapists (LMFT), clinical social workers (LCSW / LMSW), and board licensed professional counselors (LPC).

Final Words

The mental health consequences of the environmental crisis transcend countries, income-groups, race, religion and culture. The psychological wellness of the entire humanity has been negatively affected by rapid changes in the natural and built environments during the last 50 years or so. The urgent need of the hour it to address the wide array of environmental issues and their interconnected mental health effects through broader international and multi-sectoral cooperation, political struggle and a mass movement for environmental stability.