Coping with the Climate Crisis: Investigating the Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change on Youth
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The devastating impacts of climate change take a toll on the mental health and well-being of individuals around the world. Research suggests that young people experience compounding vulnerabilities to the mental health impacts of climate change (Clayton et al., 2017). Though severe cases can be detrimental, manageable levels of Ôpractical anxietyÕ are a natural reaction to climate change and promote sustainable behaviours (Marlon et al., 2019). Photovoice is a qualitative, participatory action research approach that is used to empower participants to Òrepresent their community and narrate their everyday experiences using their own voices to become catalysts for social changeÓ (Bulla & Steelman, 2016; Sutton-Brown, 2014, p. 170). This study examines the impacts of climate change on the mental health of young people and explores the efficacy of photovoice as an intervention for managing these impacts and empowering participants. Participants aged 16 to 23 were recruited from environmental programs and networks at the University of Waterloo. They were invited to capture and submit photographs and written descriptions reflecting on the mental health impacts of climate change they experience, as well as sources of courage. Participants then discussed their images and experiences in focus groups. Surveys were employed to capture levels of hope and climate anxiety pre- and post-intervention. Results indicate that climate anxiety and other mental health impacts are a reality for many students involved in environmental programs or networks. Although the objective impact of the photovoice intervention on participant well-being remains unclear, participants reported a subjective increase in mental health and well-being, as well as feelings of empowerment as a result of intervention participation. Additional research is required to better understand the mental health impacts of climate change on young people, to develop interventions and supports to help youth manage those impacts and to clarify the efficacy of photovoice methodology as a potential intervention.
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Beth Grant (2021). Coping with the Climate Crisis: Investigating the Mental Health Impacts of Climate Change on Youth. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/17068