Protecting young people's mental health and wellbeing in the climate crisis

I want to know what issues you think should be prioritized

Hi and welcome to your weekly dose of Gen Dread!

If this is your first edition, I’m thrilled you’re here. Why not receive weekly insights about the psychological impacts of the climate and wider eco crisis?

This week’s edition is not a typical post. I’m sending this out a day later than usual because I’ve been busier than usual, resulting in some news that I’m excited to share with you here. Starting in the new year, I’m going to be researching the mental health impacts of the climate crisis with a focus on mental health innovation for youth as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in the inaugural Human and Planetary Health Fellowship.

From pain to purpose

I’m an embarrassingly earnest person, so let me explain how this all happened as I think it reflects a common experience for many people who reckon with eco-emotions. What started for me as a deluge of eco-anxiety and eco-grief about the climate crisis turned into the book I’ve been writing for the last three years. My book research made me realize that I want to devote my remaining working years to this area and gain the skills to be able to advance research and tool development for improved mental health and wellbeing, with a focus on vulnerable communities. (I consider youth to be one giant globally distributed vulnerable community). That realization led me to apply to this postdoc, which is in a very different field than my doctorate, and so, was a bit of a career overhaul.

I think this is worth mentioning in the context of this newsletter about ‘staying sane in the climate crisis’ because it is a real-world example of how eco-distress can be harnessed for meaningful action in the world. It doesn’t need to look like a career change, it could be so many different things. But my point is that these feelings of distress and helplessness, though difficult, can be beneficial when we find enough support to process them and realize that we aren’t so helpless after all. Once we’ve processed them, we are much more capable of reinvesting the energy we’ve lost from grieving or being anxious into actions that can help reduce the threat that is making us feel unwell in the first place. It’s a cycle of feeling, processing, and doing (by coming together with others). 

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So this week, I’d like to hear from you.

What you are most concerned about when it comes to how the climate and wider ecological crisis impacts young people’s mental health and wellbeing? 

Maybe you’re a parent, a grandparent, another kind of family member, a teacher, a neighbour, or a young person yourself. I’d love to know what you think researchers and mental health innovators need to prioritize, in order to protect and enhance young people’s wellbeing as the world heats up. Let me know in the comments below or by hitting ‘reply’ to this email. 

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Then next week, I’ll get back to writing and sharing articles, like usual. 

Thanks in advance for your thoughts! 

Have a great week!

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