Got Climate Anxiety? These People Are Doing Something About It – The New York Times

Source: Got Climate Anxiety? These People Are Doing Something About It – The New York Times

By Susan Shain

  • Feb. 4, 2021Updated 9:59 a.m. ET

After Britt Wray married in 2017, she and her husband began discussing whether or not they were going to have children. The conversation quickly turned to climate change and to the planet those children might inherit.

“It was very, very heavy,” said Dr. Wray, now a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “I wasn’t expecting it.” She said she became sad and stressed, crying when she read new climate reports or heard activists speak.

Jennifer Atkinson, an associate professor of environmental humanities at the University of Washington, Bothell, became depressed after students told her they couldn’t sleep because they feared social collapse or mass extinction.

There are different terms for what the two women experienced, including eco-anxiety and climate grief, and Dr. Wray calls it eco-distress. “It’s not just anxiety that shows up when we’re waking up to the climate crisis,” she said. “It’s dread, it’s grief, it’s fear.”

It’s also not unusual. Over the past five years, according to researchers at Yale University and George Mason University, the number of Americans who are “very worried” about climate change has more than doubled, to 26 percent. In 2020, an American Psychiatric Association poll found that more than half of Americans are concerned about climate change’s effect on their mental health.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a psychiatrist based in Washington, D.C., and co-founder of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, an organization building a directory of climate-aware therapists, said she had “absolutely” seen a surge in patients seeking help with climate anxiety in recent years.

But as the prevalence of climate anxiety has grown, so has the number of people working to alleviate it, both for themselves and those around them.

Dr. Wray, for example, who holds a Ph.D. in science communication, began reading everything she could about anxiety and climate change, eventually shifting her own research to focus on it entirely. She shares her findings and coping techniques in a weekly newsletter, Gen Dread, with more than 2,000 subscribers. In the spring of 2022, she plans to publish a book on the topic.

“My overall goal is to help people feel less alone,” Dr. Wray said. “We need to restore ourselves so we don’t burn out and know how to be in this crisis for the long haul that it is.”

According to Dr. Wray, the growing number of people worried about climate change could be the catalyst for its solution — so much so, that she and her husband have decided to try for a baby. “As soon as we’re not alone in these feelings anymore,” she said, “it’s not nearly as bad.”

Science backs her up: Studies suggest that social support can provide resilience to stress and that feelings of belonging can increase motivation.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>