By Rebecca Kuhn, Psychologist.
Exposure to constant news about climate change in Australia has many young people feeling worried about its impact on their future lives. ReachOut and Student Edge recently released survey data consisting of over 1500 students aged 14 to 23 which indicated that up to 80 percent of students are somewhat or very anxious about climate change.
In 2019, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) consulted with 60 young people aged 16 to 25 about the climate crisis to obtain their views, experiences, and support needs.
Many young people reported the following:
- Frustration at the lack of action in Australia to mitigate it.
- Uncertainty about what they could do on an individual level.
- Feeling overwhelmed, which affected their confidence that they could make a difference.
- That the hardest part was getting started with showing an interest or taking action on climate change.
To increase self-efficacy, sense of realistic hope, and pro-environmental behaviours, young people reported that being part of a group or activity on a topic they cared about helped them to see how climate change affected them personally, and also feel like they were contributing to climate change mitigation efforts. For example, being part of a ‘climate team’ in school.
Young people also recommended that parents empower their children to be involved in climate change discourse and mitigation efforts by:
- Being great role models in their own climate change understanding and activism.
- Listening to their children’s concerns and encouraging them to be interested in and active in climate change issues.
- Supporting them in the choices they make around their involvement in social justice and climate change issues (e.g., driving them to meetings of a group they are part of, letting children form their own viewpoint).
In addition to taking action, ReachOut recommends the following simple steps young people can take if stress about climate change is impacting them:
- Remember you are not alone.
- Talking to others.
- Taking a break from social media.
- Remember what has been done.
- Be kind to yourself.
ReachOut has created the following article to support young people who may be experiencing anxiety about climate change:
The APS also has the following PDFs freely available:
Coping with climate change distress.
A guide for parents about the climate crisis.
Raising children to thrive in a climate changed world.
Australian Psychological Society (2019). Young people’s voices in the climate crisis: Psychology week 2019 report. Retrieved from https://psychweek.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/19APS-PsychWeek-Full-Report-FA.pdf