Sandi Langham, LCPC

According to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, younger generations have become increasingly concerned about global warming and environment issues. They found that seventy percent of adults aged 18 to 34 worry about global warming. As a therapist, I’ve heard an increase in emotional concern from younger clients about the environment, even to the point of these folks feeling depressed about it at times. They feel discouraged and hopeless after hearing news coverage and seeing friends’ negative opinions on social media about the issue. They struggle to stay positive about the issue. This emotional response is becoming connected more to politics as organizations and policymakers aim to motivate younger generations to act on the issue through volunteering time, money, and votes toward environmental policy. As a mother of a post-Generation-Z baby (born after 2015), my passion and interest in environmental issues has increased drastically as I have a heightened awareness of what my daughter will face in confronting global warming.

Psychology researchers even say that the younger generations are experiencing trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, depression, grief, and hopelessness according to Stoknes in the Psychology Today article “The Great Grief: How to Cope with Losing Our World” (2015). He says that people feel grief from losing clean water, clean air, and extinction of many animal species. People seem to shy away from talking about the matter publicly, since it is a discouraging matter. They feel overwhelmed or in denial about the issue.

What do we do with all of this negative news and awareness or order to not lose hope?

1. Honor your feelings about the environment – Stoknes suggests in his article, that we need to connect with our deepest feelings about the environment. He goes on to suggest, “The presence of supportive voices and models are needed. It is far harder to get acceptance of our difficulty and despair, and to mourn without someone else’s explicit affirmation and empathy.” It is helpful to get in touch with our feelings about the issue and let ourselves feel what we need to feel before being able to shift into action about the issue.
2. Increase your awareness – Sometimes the denial that people struggle with may actually stem from feeling overwhelmed with where to start addressing the issue. The more that we educate ourselves about the issue and ways that we can positively contribute to the issue, the more that we can contribute.
3. Donate time or money to an environmental organization – We can work together to take responsibility for the issue by getting involved. One example of this type of organization is the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which works to legally improve environmental policy and save endangered species.
4. Vote for environmental issues and contact a government official – Voting for environmental issues can be a powerful way to start to make changes from a national scale. It can also be emotionally empowering. Also, people can start to unite together in communities for these issues. Some cities have even started to give incentive to home owners for installing solar panels on their roofs.
5. Talk to a therapist – Since this issue does not always feel like a positive subject to talk about openly, particularly since feelings of hopelessness and depression are involved, talk to a therapist. This may also be helpful for getting clear about what emotions you feel as well as how to engage these feelings into action.
If you experience feeling depressed or overwhelmed about negative news and social media, it may be helpful to talk to supportive therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling in order to schedule an appointment.

References

Yale University. “Do Younger Generations Care More about Global Warming”
Retrieved from https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/do-younger-generations-care-more-about-global-warming/
Stoknes, P. (May 2015). “The Great Grief: How to Cope with Losing Our World”. Psychology Today.
Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-we-think-about-global-warming/201505/the-great-grief-how-cope-losing-our-world