How climate anxiety plagues our young people - and how to fight it

Action from the third Youth Strike 4 Climate protest outside City Hall, Norwich.

Action from the third Youth Strike 4 Climate protest outside City Hall, Norwich. - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

Youth services and counsellors are dealing with more and more young people fighting climate anxiety, as uncertainty over the future and fears for the environment continue to take their toll.

A global survey of some 10,000 young people across 10 countries found that almost 60pc of 16-25-year-olds feel either very worried or extremely worried about the plight of the planet and climate change.

And climate anxiety is becoming just as prevalent in people younger than this age group, as our children grow more and more aware of the world around them.

A relatively new phenomenon, climate anxiety can take a variety of forms, but is largely centred around feeling either powerless over climate change or feelings of guilt that you personally are not doing enough to fight it.

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of Mancroft Advice Project (MAP).

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of Mancroft Advice Project (MAP). - Credit: Archant

Dan Mobbs, chief executive of youth charity MAP, said he has seen it become increasingly common among the children he supports, with the charity taking a two-pronged approach to addressing it.

He said: "What we have on our hands at the minute is a generation that is having to come to terms with the fact there are many things previous generations had just won't be in their future - things like cheap holidays, affordable homes and healthy job markets.

"There are so many things they feel powerless about and climate anxiety is another type of fear about the future, which we counsel lots of young people on."

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The charity's approach to helping people coping with climate anxiety is largely based around counselling, but also includes work through its Youth Advisory Board to give youngsters a feeling of responsibility and control.

Mr Mobbs, who attended the COP26 summit in Glasgow, added: "I do believe young people understand more about climate change than ever before.

"The worst thing about any kind of anxiety is feeling that you do not have control, but something that really helps is the feeling that they are doing something about it and feeling part of a community.

"Giving young people a feeling that they are having a say and using their voices is so important."

The issue of climate anxiety itself was discussed at length at an event organised by the Norwich Eco Hub, held last week.

At the event, a number of speakers shared their experiences of the issue, how it can be treated and the issue it has.

Among them was a 14-year-old who started her own climate action group to quell her own climate anxiety.

She told the event that despite making her own positive lifestyle changes, it remained difficult to quell her own feelings of guilt and anxiety.

She added that she often feels "belittled" by people who do not treat the issue as a "real" form of anxiety".

Alina Sandu, of the Norwich Eco Hub, said: "Young people are the ones most affected by climate anxiety as they are the ones who will be most affected by climate change itself. 

"At the event, we heard a lot of suggestions for how to respond to climate anxiety and one of the best ways is to get out in the community and meet like-minded people with the same concerns.

"Getting involved in things like litter picks or beach cleans, even small scale things like that, can help with feelings of helplessness or powerlessness, which is where climate anxiety comes from."

Green Party Councillor Jamie Osborn raised residents concerns at a recent city council meeting

Green Party Norwich City Councillor Jamie Osborn - Credit: Jamie Osborn

Jamie Osborn, who sits on Norwich City Council for the Green Party has actively campaigned around climate change for several years.

Mr Osborn, aged in his 20s, said: "Climate anxiety is an extremely serious issue, particularly among children. They are at school to learn all the tools they need for the future, but also learn they may not have much of a future because of the impact of climate change.

"The best way to tackle it though is to come together, protest and get involved in collective action, which is why groups like Extinction Rebellion and things like school strikes are so useful.

"You have to embrace that climate change is not a problem created by individuals, it is a collective issue that affects us all."

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