The Australian Psychological Society (APS) today issued the following statement in relation to the emergence of ‘climate distress’ as a growing mental health concern in Australia:
“The APS acknowledges the scientific consensus regarding the existence of climate change and effects of climate change on people’s health and wellbeing,” APS President Ros Knight said.
“Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Because the level of global emissions continues to increase, the physical and psychological threat this poses to our children and future generations is real and grows larger with every passing year. Many Australians are reporting some level of concern about climate change to our members. In a recent survey one-in-five Australians said they had experienced climate-related distress at some time (Griffith University, April 2012).
“When confronting the topic of climate change, people can swing between denial and doing nothing, to over-involvement and burnout, if they’re not careful. Feelings of personal loss, anger, helplessness and guilt are typically associated with climate change and its impact.
“Children feel these emotions as keenly as adults.
“Parents with children concerned about climate change should explain to them that taking actions like walking, catching public transport, talking to others or joining groups can and will make a difference, recognising change takes time and that enjoying life and doing other activities with family and friends are as equally important,” Ms Knight said.
The APS is currently focusing on climate distress via the involvement of a youth advisory group and the development of a position paper as part of its annual national initiative ‘Psychology Week’ (10 – 16 November 2019).
In 2013, the APS signed a statement of commitment developed by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) and the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) to garner support for protecting our children and future generations from climate change.