Have you ever watched a documentary on pollution and realized how fragile the environment really is? Our massive consumption rates are depleting the planet’s resources and it's also affecting our mental health. If you are feeling worried or anxious about the environment, you may be experiencing Eco-anxiety. These feelings typically stem from people experiencing a natural disaster or coming to the realization that the environment is changing due to human activity. Therapists do not consider this to be a severe mental issue but it is being reported by individuals that their Eco-anxiety is triggering feelings of worry and stress.
(*Further information on the impacts of Eco-anxiety can be found on goodtherapy.org.)
How to reduce Eco-Anxiety?
Imagine how challenging it must have been to live through Hurricane Katrina? Research from a 2017 psychological report revealed that during Hurricane Katrina, “suicide rates more than doubled, 1 in 6 people met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD and 49 percent developed an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression.”
Although this is an extreme case of how psychologically damaging Eco-Anxiety can be, it is important that we are vocal about this anxiety to raise awareness and make an impact on evolving into a more environmentally conscious society.
The psychological report mentioned above also highlights key ways of combating Eco-anxiety:
- “Build resilience” to ecological distress (this may take mental effort and time to cope)
- It’s best to have someone who you can go to and talk about your concerns. You can try going to the UIC Wellness Center as well.
- Support environmental policies and agencies
- Raise awareness by sharing, reading, and posting about environmental news
- Show that you have an interest in environmental topics by posting news about it every once in a while.
- Get involved- Chicago is packed with local opportunities to get involved in increasing environmental awareness
- OAKtober in Illinois– A local event in Evanston, hosted by the Chicago Region Trees Initiative, educates the public on the role trees play in cleaning the air and water and much more.
How UIC is getting involved with environmental policy?
As stated by UIC’s Office of Sustainability, “The Climate Action Implementation Plan (CAIP) is a refined cost-effective portfolio of solutions to be implemented by 2028.”
Goals of Plan:
- Propose a carbon-neutral campus
- Aspire for a zero-waste campus
- Implementing water fountains, recycling programs, as well as composting waste.
- Become a net-zero water campus
- According to UIC’s Office of Sustainability, “UIC will use the same amount of water in its operations (irrigation, plumbing, etc.) as the amount of natural rainfall on UIC’s campus.”
(*Visit UIC’s Office of Sustainability website for further details)
Don’t let Eco-Anxiety get the best of you. It’s important to talk about it and take a mindful approach to raise awareness on environmental issues. Pay attention to environmental news, research, and volunteer opportunities which can help ease any stress you might be feeling. Experiencing Eco-anxiety is a normal result of realizing that we are a part of a complex ecosystem that is coexisting simultaneously.