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Fears around climate change have been impacting the mental health of teenagers in Australia negatively, with 38% of respondents saying they are experiencing high psychological distress.

Ruby Bron feels “helpless” and “anxiety-ridden” when she thinks about the future and the irreversible damage occurring because of the climate emergency. The 17-year-old Sydney student says without drastic action to cut emissions, her generation will be left to deal with the climate crisis in an increasingly damaged and volatile world. “That is a massive responsibility placed on us,” Bron says. “Anxiety builds up.”

The climate crisis is such a big issue and causing so much harm that sometimes she feels as though it is impossible to fight it. “There is a constant occurrence of disasters,” she says. “Fires, floods, droughts and cyclones. These disasters affect people’s livelihoods, their homes, the way their communities run. In that world, there would be a lot of disappointment and regret that nothing was done sooner.”

The youth mental health organisation Orygen and Mission Australia on Thursday released the findings of a survey of nearly 19,000 young Australians aged 15 to 19. More than a quarter (26%) say they are “very concerned” or “extremely concerned” about the climate crisis, and 38% of those respondents say they experience high psychological distress.

Those who report being very or extremely concerned are more likely to report higher levels of distress, lower wellbeing and more negative feelings about the future.

Dr Caroline Gao, a biostatistician and epidemiologist at Orygen and co-author of the report, says the impact of the climate emergency on mental health is “an emerging but significant issue” that will probably grow as global heating becomes more severe. Gao says urgent measures are needed to reduce this distress and anxiety, and to “foster hope and avoid despair, while still motivating positive climate actions”.

The report suggests that while concerns about the climate crisis may contribute to a young person’s psychological distress, it is also possible that pre-existing distress increases the likelihood of worry and concerns, including about the environment.

Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe, president of the Australian Psychological Society, says it is an “understatement” to say young Australians are anxious about the climate crisis. “They are despairing,” she says. “Psychologists are seeing an increase in people of all ages presenting with psychological distress they attribute to concern for the climate.”

Davis-McCabe says many young people are telling their psychologists that they feel as though they will not have a world to live in. “Where climate anxiety used to be something only a small group of patients were worried about, it is now one of the most common issues psychologists are discussing with young people,” she says.

Original source: https://www.theguardian.com