Therapy for climate change: How 'eco anxiety' is affecting mental health

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A placard with the slogan “1.5 Degrees Celsius = rich countries do your fair share” is seen on a replica of the Eiffel Tower during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) in Le Bourget, near Paris (Image: Reuters)

Climate change has a harmful psychological aspect that many seem to be neglecting. With weather pattern changes and the general concern regarding climate on news reports already affecting people, the mental anguish coming with it has become unbearable for many.

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The concept of ‘eco-anxiety’ has entered general talk. People are seeking professional help to counter the harmful effects of worrying about the climate. Especially in young people, the anxiety in exhausting whether or not they bear the direct brunt of it or follow the updates on news.

“Climate anxiety” is a topic that’s relatively new in therapy sessions. Ten years ago, two US-based psychologists Thomas J. Doherty and Susan Clayton published a paper on the psychological effects of climate change. And even though research has been swiftly expanding, there is no empirical data on effective treatment yet, The New York Times reported.

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News reports have been drastically increasing over the years on personal struggles of people trying to cope with ‘eco-anxiety’, a concept introduced by young activists.

A survey across 10 countries, led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities last year, had some concerning results.

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Nearly 60 percent of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried about climate change, BBC reported. More than 45 percent of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their everyday lives. The survey recorded responses of 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25.

Many believe they have no future or the world is doomed. Several feel betrayed by politicians or believe that no one is taking any coercive action.

Feelings of despair over several climate events has nudged people into therapy. Countries where severe climate change is common are facing the most brunt. BBC reports that Portugal is the most worried country in the world as the European nation struggles to combat repeated wildfires recently.

The startling rates of pessimism, especially among young people, swung therapists into action. The urgency of the situation led climate therapists to work on a solution.

The Climate Psychology Alliance provides an online directory of climate-aware therapists; the Good Grief Network, a peer support network modelled on 12-step addiction programs, has spawned more than 50 groups and professional certification programs in climate psychology have also come to the fore, The New York Times reported.

The intense psychological effects caused due to negativity regarding the climate are a major concern and hopefully, therapists will be able to guide people to cope with the stress that doesn’t seem to be going away soon.

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