The American Psychological Association defines the term ‘eco-anxiety’ as ‘a chronic fear of environmental doom’.
In March, a short BBC video titled ‘Are you suffering from climate change anxiety?’ captured this fear, with individuals describing personal frustration, absence of power and a deep sense of helplessness. What do we really know about the impact of climate on our mental health and wellbeing?
Some IEMA members have been raising similar concerns. Perhaps our professional context may compound the situation. As one member strikingly stated: “For many years now I have suffered from anxiety as a result of working in this sector. I believe environmental and sustainability professionals will need support for their mental health and wellbeing, as the climate crisis and environmental degradation continues to unfold.”
Those with climate change anxiety ask questions such as: what if incremental improvements are simply not good enough? What if a tightening economic outlook undermines our business case for low-carbon transformation? How do these dilemmas impact upon a professional; do they leave us over-critical of our own performance? Do some unhealthy governance situations exacerbate our frustrations, and are some professionals feeling isolated? These and related feelings are expressed.
This anxiety for professionals is something that IEMA and our member-led networks will need to understand more fully. Ideas and opportunities for support have been suggested by members, including the concept of the Frazzled Cafe. This registered charity seeks to provide a safe, anonymous and non-judgmental environment, where people who are feeling ‘frazzled’ can meet on a regular basis to talk and share their personal stories. It is already operating in many UK communities. Training
and wider support has also been suggested.
IEMA is collaborating with the British Psychological Society, and in June we are holding a joint conference on the theme of communicating climate change. Collaboration with members and between professions feels like a good start, and we need to better understand and help professionals who are suffering from climate change anxiety. If you have been affected by climate change anxiety, or have implemented a strategy to try and combat it in the workplace, we would love to hear from you – email us at email@example.com