With catastrophic weather events rapidly becoming normal each year across Canada and around the world, young people are increasingly worried about their future. But experts say resources to support their mental health are unlikely to keep up with demand.
Hannah Fessler, 16, told CBC News in Victoria against a backdrop of hazy bushfire smoke that people her age weren’t left to deal with problems created by previous generations. expressed concern. Her own feelings about wildfires in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and around the world are mixed.
“Of course I’m scared, but I’m a little relieved that I’m not the victim, but I’m a little embarrassed that I’m thinking about myself,” said Fässler.
More than 5,800 fires have broken out in Canada so far this year, burning more than 15.3 million hectares, making it the worst fire season in Canadian history, according to the Interagency Forest Fire Center of Canada. The smoke from this season’s fires has not only forced thousands to evacuate, but has also issued air quality alerts nationwide.
Adriana Silva, 18, is experiencing fear and uncertainty about the future amid climate change, but she says the adults around her don’t always acknowledge it.
“Some of my relatives don’t really believe in climate change, they say it’s not real, it’s all a hoax,” Silva said. “I believe that too. It’s very real. We see it firsthand every day.”
These accounts of teens like Fessler and Silva strengthen research These show how climate change is affecting the mental health of young people.
According to a 2021 study A study published in The Lancet found that 84 percent of 10,000 respondents aged 16 to 25 were at least moderately concerned about climate change. More than 45% said their feelings about climate change are having a negative impact on their daily lives and lives.
While threatening meteorological phenomena, change the landscape Experts worry that mental health resources may be inadequate to meet people’s needs in the coming decades.
Climate change is a ‘mental health problem’
Lindsay McCann, Ph.D., chair of the environmental psychology division of the Canadian Psychological Association and professor of psychology at Vancouver Island University, says climate change has a range of emotions that don’t necessarily align with climate anxiety.
“There is a term called ‘ecological anxiety,’ which is a bit different than climate anxiety. I think they are,” McCann said.
Ecological concerns are those that people are aware of and concerned about climate change, but are concerned about in a productive way, such as by preparing for emergencies or attending climate action events. If you can handle it. Climate anxiety, on the other hand, is the transformation of this worry into paralyzing despair.
According to a spokesperson for the Canadian Psychological Association, the consensus within the Canadian Psychological Association is that the prevalence of climate anxiety will worsen over the next few years, and there is a shortage of mental health professionals to meet this growing need. It is said that there is
“[There is] Climate change is arguably also a mental health issue, so there is an ongoing need to address mental health,” McCann said.
Kids Help Phone is a phone and text message service aimed at helping young people talk about their mental health concerns and provide resources. Significant increase in demand During the restriction period due to the new coronavirus infection. But Diana Martin, the group’s senior director of counseling, said the number of calls hasn’t declined since.
“We get up to 800-900 calls a day on busy days, which is probably about double what we had before the pandemic,” Martin said.
She said it’s difficult to determine whether calls will increase during natural disasters, but Martin said the 30 percent spike in calls to Kids Help Phone in June was due to natural disasters. I’m guessing not. Caused by events caused by climate change.
person to talk to
The Kids Help Phone offers a variety of ways to make mental health services available to young people.
When young people call or email an organization, they usually start by expressing their feelings without pointing out a specific cause, Martin said. A counselor or trained volunteer then assesses their needs through conversation and directs them to appropriate resources.
The ability to text or live chat with someone through the website is especially popular.
“For many young people, using written language is either a comfort or sometimes just a matter of privacy,” says Martin. “[With] Young people sometimes worry that their voice will be heard when they make a phone call. Therefore, contacting them via text or live chat feels more private. “
This team has a database of thousands of counselors across Canada and can provide ongoing support for free or at a sliding fee. However, in some cases, such as small rural communities, professional help is often not available.
“At that time, we may work with them mainly through informal assistance,” Martin said. “Maybe it’s not a counseling professional, but it could be a family member, a family friend, a neighbor, a coach, a teacher.”
Finding someone to talk to about environmental issues and climate concerns is one solution teens like Fässler and Silva are already seeking.
Spending time in nature is another.
“For me, the way to deal with anxiety about nature is to spend more time in it. It’s really sad that the space you spend your time in can be compromised. said Lin Nguyen, 19, who immigrated to Canada with her. family 5 years ago.
Nguyen’s conversations with her colleagues divert to climate change when someone points out the recent bad weather or discusses exacerbating health problems due to changing weather conditions.
For McCann, it is urgent to conduct further research on climate anxiety in all demographics, not just young people, she said.
“Environment is everywhere, right? It’s part of everyone’s life, no matter who you are, where you work, whatever the circumstances,” McCann said.
“You have probably noticed that we all have attachments to the places where we live, work and play. It creates a certain kind of stress.”