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Continuous worry for the environment is creating 'eco-anxiety'

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Frank Morris
/
KCUR 89.3
Increased flooding is just one effect of climate change that worries people concerned about the environment.

Growing concerns over climate change also are a growing threat to our mental health.

More people are seeking counseling for distress directly related to what's happening to the environment.

Dr. Barbara Gilbert is a psychologist based in Lawrence, Kansas, with a specialty in climate-informed therapy. She's been hearing a number of concerns from her patients.

Some worry how climate change's impact on food production will affect them. Others worry about whether they should have children or about the prospect of a shorter lifespan.

Laela Zaidi is a climate activist with the Sunrise Movement KC. She's familiar with "eco-anxiety."

"When I was 15 years old I survived the EF-5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri," she says. "It was devastating."

But it wasn't until years later that she realized "this country had not actually done much about climate change" and what she survived was "an extreme weather event that's becoming super common."

Zaidi admits she can spiral into "doom scrolling" while watching the news and internet videos. On the positive side, she says "I'm actually using my anxiety to take action."

Psychologist Gilbert says a key to dealing with eco-anxiety is resiliency. She believes in working to develop a "sense of taking in the reality but looking for what's in our power to do" as a counter to feelings of despair.

  • Dr. Barbara Gilbert, ipsychologist based in Lawrence, Kansas with a specialty in climate informed therapy
  • Laela Zaidi, organizer, Sunrise Movement KC
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