World Health Day: changing climate and eco-anxiety 

This year’s World Health Organisation (WHO) World Health Day – 7 April - is themed ‘Our planet, our health’, focusing on how the changing climate is impacting people’s health. 

In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) February 2022 report, Chapter 7 details the impacts on health, including mental health. The latest IPCC report, released on 4 April, stresses that keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius is becoming increasingly difficult unless we act immediately. 

As extreme climate events such as flooding and bushfires become more frequent, rates of climate related grief and anxiety rise.  

The effects of such events continue long past the immediate danger has subsided. Research has shown climate related disasters lead to higher rates of anxiety and PTSD, among others. 

Researchers from the Australian National University and the University of Johannesburg stress the importance of making the time and space to talk through these feelings, creating ‘platforms free of judgement with expectations of respect and a willingness to listen, where feelings can be shared and heard.’  

Counsellors and psychotherapists play a key role in helping people process and sit with feelings of climate anxiety and eco-grief. 

The Northern Rivers Healing Hub, established by College of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Practices convenor Carlie Atkinson, provides an example of how counsellors and psychotherapists can respond to ecological disasters. 

Practitioners are not immune from these feelings either. Read the Climate Council’s tips, tools, and resources for dealing with climate anxiety. 

On 29 April 2022, PDP presents a day-long webinar facilitated by PACFA member Merle Conyer on Responding to Climate Change in Therapeutic Practice. PACFA members are eligible for a 20% discount on PDP’s professional development offerings (members-only content - you will need to log in to view the discount code).