Time to act on climate crisis is now

Australian research indicates that:

– 95% of Australian youth believe that climate change is a serious problem

– 4 in 5 youth are anxious about climate change

– 3 in 4 youth feel that young people’s opinions and concerns are not being taken seriously.

The peak body for psychologists is calling on Australia’s governments to declare a climate emergency and take urgent action to protect the environment for current and future generations.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has found that the majority of our young people say their opinions and fears about the climate crisis are being ignored, and says it is time to acknowledge the science and recognise it is having an impact on mental health.

The APS is using Psychology Week 2019 to promote what psychology as a science tells us about young people’s feelings, attitudes and beliefs about this issue.

The APS undertook a review of the research literature on the climate crisis in relation to children and youth, and established a Youth Advisory Group to hear young people’s voices and gain insights into how they can be supported.

“It is critical that young people talk about their concerns with the adults in their lives, including what they know about the climate crisis and how they feel about it. It is easy to become overwhelmed, but we have a responsibility to listen to the young people in our lives and acknowledge that their feelings are real,” said APS President Ros Knight.

“Our Youth Advisory Group participants spoke of their anxiety about the climate crisis and their frustration at the lack of action in Australia to mitigate it. They reported a need to develop empathy for ‘the people of the future’ with respect to climate change.”

“They expressed uncertainty about what they could do at an individual level, a feeling which was at times overwhelming and affected their confidence that they could make a difference. However, they said they felt more supported and more hopeful around climate change when they were actively involved in pro-environmental behaviours, and supported by parents, teachers and peers,” she said.

“Psychological science has much to contribute to understanding and supporting young people around the climate crisis, including understanding the impact on children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, how their environmental attitudes and behaviour have developed and can be influenced and how they can best be supported.”

“Many parents and other caregivers worry about how the climate crisis will affect their children’s

future. We recommend communication, modelling and action to help young people feel empowered

and help them cope with distressing feelings.”

“We recommend that young people consider what they can do about these issues, because taking

action leads to greater self-efficacy, hopefulness and resilience. We must reassure young people

that taking actions like walking, catching public transport, talking to others or joining groups can and

will make a difference.”

The full report and a range of resources are available at www.psychweek.org.au

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