Climate change also affects mental health. Call it Environmental Concern

Anna Lynn Heine has thought about leaving Eckerd College more times than she cared to admit.

Or you’ll be working on an article and wondering what the goal is.

Concern about the future of the planet has also prevented the 21-year-old from enjoying dinner with family or drinks with friends. A plastic cup can send her into an existential vortex.

“Where did this food come from? Where does this plastic go and how much fossil fuel has it been burned to make it to my table?” She will ask herself. “And will this go to the landfill if I don’t finish it?”

Mental health professionals have a term for the stress and grief many feel about the future of the planet: environmental anxiety. The American Psychiatric Association defines it as “Chronic fear of environmental destruction. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

a temper nature study Published in September, it surveyed 10,000 young people in 10 countries and found that most respondents were “extremely concerned” or “extremely concerned” about climate change. Nearly half said that climate anxiety affects their daily lives.

Heine is an environmental studies specialist in Joe Hoxter’s Climate Change Communications class at Eckerd College. The assistant professor of environmental studies said that nearly every student in her class suffers from an environmental concern.

The Huxster course examines the psychology of climate denial and the ways in which different sectors – media, government, and businesses – discuss climate change. Students learn how to run a regulatory campaign to address climate policy and ways to talk about it with climate denial and indifference.

Hayne, who grew up in Miami and Key West, said she is deeply concerned about the growing threat of natural disasters from climate change and the suffering that will come along. class and ethnicity.

She is grieving for her hometown of Miami, where scientists predict that sea level rise will replace her Almost a third of the current population by the end of the century.

It will be a painful ending, and it will happen unfairly,” Hein said.

    Anna Lin Heine looks to the side and smiles

Ariel Bader

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special for the times

Anna Lynn Heine, a student at Eckerd College, poses for a photo on April 19 on the Saint Petersburg campus.

“What do you have control over?”

Concern about the future of the planet is increasingly heightened in Orlando therapist Cali Sinclair’s sessions with clients.

Sinclair, a licensed mental health counselor and trauma specialist, said her clients who are teens and young adults discuss feeling doomed to the environment. Those who have young children, or are considering having children, deal with the guilt of forcing the next generation to inherit a hotter, less habitable world.

She said many of them are survivors of childhood trauma, and suffer from a pervasive feeling of being unsafe.

Sinclair didn’t learn to deal with climate anxiety or grief in graduate school, but she did realize that the number of clients who needed professional help would only increase. In February, I recorded with Climate Psychiatry Alliancea professional group providing resources and training.

Create the alliance Climate Aware Therapist’s Guide, a resource to help people find therapists who have pledged to acknowledge the climate crisis as a threat to physical and mental health. There are about 100 therapists in the directory, but Sinclair is one of only two in Florida.

About a third of their customers shared concern or sadness about the environment. Her response is tailored to each client, but encourages them to stay grounded in the present and think of constructive ways to improve their feelings.

Well, what can you control? Sinclair tells them. “What can you do to try to make an impact while verifying that so many things are out of your control?”

Joanna Hoster looking into the camera

Ariel Bader

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special for the times

Joanna Hoxster, associate professor of environmental studies at Eckerd College, listens to a student during an outdoor class on April 19 on the Saint Petersburg campus. She teaches an Environmental Communications course and dedicates the last week of class to teaching her students how to deal with environmental anxiety and grief. Environmental anxiety, or “chronic fear of ecological doom,” is affecting the mental health of an increasing number of people as they grapple with the realities of climate change.

Huxster tells her students that the best thing anyone can do is talk about the climate crisis. She said about 70 percent of the US population knows climate change is real, but only 30 percent talk about it. She hopes to direct attention toward effective climate action: a transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy and electric transportation.

“Your carbon footprint is very small,” Hoxster said. “The most important thing about your actions is how they affect the actions of the people around you.”

“We didn’t create this problem.”

A love of the ocean brought one of Huxster Eckerd’s students, Anya Cervantes, from suburban Massachusetts to Florida to study the environment. Fear for the oceans fuels her environmental anxiety.

The 22-year-old is a licensed scuba diver. Find peace underwater, among swaying coral, a vibrant ecosystem that supports a fourth From all forms of marine life.

“It’s a spiritual experience for me,” she said.

Her dream is to see Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, 60 percent of which has already been bleached due to heat stress. She hopes she can see what’s left in time, but she also feels guilty for wanting to go at all (the United Nations predicts that carbon dioxide emissions from planes will end. Triple by 2050).

Huxster’s class helped Cervantes think about ways she could combine her passion for environmental justice with her second major, visual arts, in a career that could help address problems the world faces.

Anya Cervantes looking at the camera

Ariel Bader

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special for the times

Anya Cervantes, a student at Eckerd College, poses for a photo on April 19 on the Saint Petersburg campus.

While the 22-year-old can’t imagine not dedicating herself to alleviating the climate crisis, she is also frustrated with the pressures her generation is under to solve it.

“The younger generation is almost on a pedestal to save the planet,” she said. “It’s like we didn’t create this problem.”

“best try”

For Huxster, research on climate change — dealing with terrible data almost daily — creates a concern. She has a two-year-old son and is worried about what the future will look like for him and the people he will know.

But her work also makes her feel good. This semester, she said, three students decided to pursue careers in translating climate science to different audiences. Each year, more students enroll in the 25-person course than there is space for it.

The professor devotes the last week of her class to discussing environmental anxiety and grief.

Students share how they feel and read a chapter from the book Per Espen Stoknes What we think about when we try not to think about global warming.

Joanna Huxter talking to people sitting and listening in the foreground

Ariel Bader

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special for the times

Joanna Hoxster, associate professor of environmental studies at Eckerd College, leads a discussion in her Environmental Communications class on April 19 at the Saint Petersburg campus.

Heine admits she needs to find a way to take care of a sustainable climate for her mental health. And so you can keep getting up every day and doing the work.

She knows she won’t drop out. You will finish the article. She plans to have children.

“I will not withhold a new life that can build things to become better just because of fear. I would rather try to continue to build the future.”

The Times photojournalist Ariel Bader contributed to this report.

This story was produced in partnership with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a multi-newsroom initiative formed to cover the effects of climate change in the state.