Matthew Treble (he/him) is a student in the Master of Counselling program at Athabasca University. He currently lives on the unceded traditional territories of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, otherwise known as Victoria, BC. In his final year, he is working on his Master’s Thesis under the supervision of Dr. Gina Martin which is exploring how the climate crisis impacts the mental health of young people from an existential perspective. In addition to his schoolwork, he currently works as a youth mental health counsellor for a non-profit organization.
Title: Hopelessness and Meaninglessness for Young People as a Result of the Climate Crisis: The Need for a Therapeutic Approach
Abstract: The gradual warming of Earth due to excessive carbon dioxide emissions, appropriately deemed the climate crisis, is creating unique mental health issues that are only beginning to be understood. There is emerging research exploring the mental health impacts of climate change, often termed eco-anxiety and eco-depression, yet this research is often focused on adults. This represents a crucial gap in the research as young people are reported to be at an increased vulnerability to negative mental health impacts caused by the climate crisis due to uncertain futures and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. In order to explore the mental health impacts of climate change among young people a literature review was conducted using three online databases. This review serves as a call-to-action for allied disciplines to carefully consider how to support young people navigating the climate crisis. Current climate crisis mental health research was reviewed to validate and highlight the need for an interdisciplinary approach to this issue that centres young people as a demographic of concern. Through this review, evidence was compiled to argue that eco-anxiety and eco-depression are unique mental health experiences separate from their generalized counterparts (i.e., generalized anxiety and depression). Further, research supports that the climate crisis impacts people in a multitude of ways suggesting a need for an interdisciplinary approach to support young people. Finally, there is potential overlap in symptomatology and experience of existential anxiety and eco-anxiety, suggesting a potential cofounding variable of existential concerns that may be contributing to this experience.