The Climate Crisis is Causing a Mental Health Crisis — Help Us Fight It

The climate crisis and its devastating effects make headlines daily. But there’s another harrowing effect of climate change, one particularly cruel to young people, that’s been all but overlooked: a looming mental health crisis resulting in widespread feelings of anxiety, despair and hopelessness.

The good news is a growing number of mental health, climate and youth/education experts worldwide are rallying together in response. Small Change Fund is excited to partner with one of this field’s most celebrated and innovative leaders, author and researcher Dr. Britt Wray. 

Together we are bringing this emerging crisis — and the climate emergency behind it — the awareness, community and action it urgently needs.

You can help us – donate today!

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Protecting and Promoting Youth Mental Health in the Climate Crisis

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Climate anxiety. Ecological grief. Solastalgia. Even five years ago, most people would never have heard of these terms, and many still haven’t. The mental health crisis within the climate crisis is a growing yet unconsidered phenomenon, one whose reach and severity may cause far more debilitation than the physical impacts of climate change.

Tackling this crisis has become the mission of Dr. Britt Wray. 

A Toronto-born author and researcher, Britt is currently a Human and Planetary Health Fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the incoming Lead of a Special Initiative of the Chair on Climate and Mental Health in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Her research has been showcased in the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Guardian, Wired, Globe & Mail, BBC Wildlife and TED Talks, and her books include the Governor General’s Literary Award-nominated “Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis,” which has been acclaimed by fellow authors Naomi Klein and Dr. Gabor Mate, and “Don’t Look Up” Writer-Director Adam McKay.

A generation struggling for hope

In 2021, Britt co-authored a pioneering study on the psychological impacts of climate change, surveying 10,000 16-25 year olds in 10 countries. Among its most concerning findings were:

  • 45% of respondents reported climate change negatively affects their daily life and functioning
  • 75% said the future is frightening”
  • More than 50% said the things I most value in life will be destroyed”
  • 39% reported that climate change makes them hesitant to have their own children

But eco-distress is not just a young person’s concern: it also affects farmers, Indigenous communities across generations, climate scientists and activists, and communities that are coping first-hand with environmental injustice and climate disaster. For those communities, it can lead to shock, trauma, strained relationships, substance abuse and even suicide. One example is found in northern areas where warming is the fastest, like the Inuit communities of Labrador: the despair of having to witness the ice you rely on vanish before your eyes is almost impossible to fathom.

A global community responds

Despite all this, if not because of it, people worldwide across the mental health, climate and other fields are rallying to intervene on the crisis. And Britt’s team is at the forefront. 

Much is being done, and much more needs to be funded and supported. Teams of researchers, communicators and outreach experts must be built and equipped. Advocacy and storytelling are needed to put the crisis on the map, and help people recognize how it might be showing up in themselves and the people around them. Communities online and in-person can offer support, tools and strategies, from coping techniques and emotional strength training, to advice on how to exert the kinds of political pressure that will force our leaders to adopt progressive policies.

Research, resources, breakthrough communications, speaking, advocating, creating a community of hope and action — it all needs to be supported and developed. And in all of it, listening to those most impacted by climate change and enabling their lived experiences to help guide the response will be essential.

Small Change Fund is thrilled to partner on and support Britt and her team’s groundbreaking work — especially at this early stage, where hope is strongest — as they reveal and chart this entirely new and alarming frontier of the climate crisis.

You can join us – donate today.