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Climate Change and Its Impact on Children’s Mental Health: Adapting, Mitigating, and Co-Creating a Resilient Future

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Zara Nwosu
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Climate Change and Its Impact on Children’s Mental Health: Adapting, Mitigating, and Co-Creating a Resilient Future

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As the world grapples with the escalating crisis of climate change, its impact extends beyond the physical environment. A recent survey by charity Save the Children has brought to light a startling revelation - 60% of children aged 12 to 18 believe that climate change and inequality are affecting their generation's mental health. Seven out of ten children surveyed expressed a deep-seated concern for the world they will inherit. Furthermore, a study by the Woodland Trust uncovered that 20% of young people aged 16 to 24 are willing to have fewer children to combat climate change, highlighting the term 'climate anxiety' as a growing concern in internet searches. The role of parents in addressing these concerns cannot be overstated, and this article aims to offer a list of positive actions that families can undertake together.

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The Relationship between Climate Change and Mental Health

Research by the likes of Lynch School Professor Betty Lai and Dr. Sanae Okamoto has delved into how climate-related disasters can detrimentally affect children's mental health as they develop. The direct pathway of climate change effects on mental health incorporates stress-related conditions induced by exposure to extreme weather events. The indirect pathway can disrupt economic and social activities, leading to a negative impact on mental health. This impact is particularly concerning for children in low and middle-income countries, who are often disproportionately affected.

The Impact of Climate Disasters

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Climate disasters form a significant part of the climate change crisis, and their frequency has been on the rise over the past two decades. These disasters are not just physical phenomena - they are a source of worry, anxiety, and fear, particularly for children. In fact, children even below the age of 8 years have been found to be anxious about climate change. These disasters can trigger psychological distress, trauma, loss, grief, and disrupt routine and social support. The prolonged impact of such experiences on the cognitive and emotional development of children is alarming and calls for immediate intervention.

The Role of Parents and Positive Actions

Parents have a pivotal role to play in addressing their children's concerns about the environment. They can help by educating their children about climate change and its impacts, encouraging them to engage in discussions about the environment, and providing reassurance by taking steps to reduce their family's carbon footprint.

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Co-Creating a Resilient Future

Addressing climate change and its impacts on mental health is a collective responsibility. Integrating mental health into climate change adaptation, mitigation, and disaster recovery efforts is key to reducing the risk of mental health problems. Particular focus must be given to marginalized and vulnerable populations who are disproportionately affected by climate change. It is crucial to provide sufficient mental health support to young individuals and children, particularly in the face of climate change impacts and disaster occurrences.

In conclusion, as climate change continues to shape our world, we must ensure that our children inherit a planet that is sustainable and just, and a society that prioritizes mental health. By doing so, we can alleviate the climate anxiety that is plaguing our younger generations and move towards a more resilient future.

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