People who suffer ‘eco-anxiety’ have revealed how the climate crisis has left their health crippled with insomnia, chest pain, heart palpitations and depressive symptoms.
Mother-of-two and screenwriter Pippa Best, from Cornwall, and activist Ellie Smith, 23, from London, appeared on This Morning today and said they felt ‘hopeless and helpless’ over climate change.
Ellie slammed British politicians during the segment and said the emotion was ‘needed for action’, saying: ‘We should be encouraging eco-anxiety in our leaders, because Boris Johnson shows a complete lack of eco-anxiety.’
But viewers were unimpressed by the programme’s guests, with one commenting online: ‘Three plebs on the sofa having mental issues because of climate change. 23-year-old – future is not bright, we are helpless – my 22 year old daughter would laugh in her face and tell her to pull herself together.’
Guests Mother-of-two Pippa Best, from Cornwall, and activist Ellie Smith, from London, and psychologist Patrick Kennedy Williams, appeared on This Morning to discuss eco-anxiety
One commented: ‘Eco-anxiety? Literally heard it all now.’
Pippa opened up about her concerns about climate change on the programme, saying: ‘For me it’s always been something I’ve cared about. I live in Cornwall and I’m surrounded by the beautiful environment.’
She said the bush fires in Australia escalated her fears further, saying: ‘I think we’re surrounded by news and amazing documentaries that really bring home the terrible trauma happening to people and animals. We want to do something but we feel quite powerless.
‘I know for me I have two kids who are also really concerned about the environment and worrying about other kids who are being impacted by climate change.’
Viewers were unsympathetic to the guests on the morning prgramme, with some branding them ‘crazy’ for their fears about the climate
Meanwhile Ellie said: ‘I was aware of climate change and learned about it at school but no one else was freaking out about it, it wasn’t in the news, people weren’t talking about it much, and so I didn’t think it was too concerning.’
What is eco-anxiety?
In November, researchers found that nearly two-thirds of people are concerned about climate change and the same amount are prepared to make changes to address it.
The issue of ‘eco-anxiety’ was brought to the forefront of public attention by 17-year-old activist Greta Thunberg.
Eco-anxiety is described by Psychology Today as ‘a fairly recent psychological disorder afflicting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis’.
No stats are available on how widespread it is, but some experts said there is increased public anxiety around climate change.
In a 2017 report, Professor Susan Clayton at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, wrote: ‘We can say that a significant proportion of people are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change, and that the level of worry is almost certainly increasing.’
‘And then I came to London and saw Extinction Rebellion and I started doing more research and I thought, “Oh my goodness, this is real. We are approaching climate catastrophe”.’
She explained: ‘Eco-anxiety is not necessarily a mental health condition, but it’s a really emotional, understandable, natural reaction to the climate crisis.
‘I wanted people to feel okay feeling anxious and scared.’
After Holly asked how eco-anxiety affected her, Pippa explained: ‘If I’ve not been careful about how much news I’m watching because I want to know as much as possible…
‘But if I read too much, it might affect my sleep, I’ll feel anxious, worry about my kids, feel like crying.
‘The problem is when it makes you freeze, and not want to do stuff and that’s the point then you have to really look after yourself and find self compassion.’
Meanwhile Ellie said: ‘It feels like chest tightening, heart palpitations, insomnia, depression symptoms, hopelessness, fear, despair.
‘Like, whats the point of getting up in the morning? What’s the point in going to work?’
She explained: ‘I’m 23, we’ll see climate crisis in my lifetime and the future is not looking bright at the moment.’
Holly explained that her children watched Newsround and they had started talking about the climate a lot.
Ellie said she had suffered chest pain and heart palpitations, as well as insomnia and depressive symptoms over her fears about the climate
She said: ‘They’re talking about it in a different way now having seen the bush fires. They do worry about it, their questioning has changed and it’s becoming quite fearful.’
She asked psychologist Patrick Kennedy Williams how to help children and adults to cope with their eco-anxiety, saying: ‘A lot of the work we find ourselves doing is parents educating contacting us and say, “How are we going to answer these questions?”.
‘The reality is they’re being exposed to it anyway – it’s just about opening up the dialogue with kids.’
He explained: ‘Patient wise, it’s snowballed over the past few years.’
Meanwhile Pippa said she had been left close to tears as she worried about her children and their future
There’s been a real range of people contacting us, young people, grandparents worried about grandchildren, people who work in climate research in some way who are exposed to a lot of bad news which can impact how they do their jobs.’
He said: ‘Ellie and Pippa sound really familiar – insomnia, low moods, hopelessness, helplessness.
‘That’s the key one because that was interferes with people’s ability to take action.
‘But no one person is too small, but if we all feel helpless and there’s nothing we can do, it could get in the way of actually get in our way of solving the crisis.’
He added: ‘It’s okay to be feeling this way – there’s a very real threat here.’
Psychologist Patrick called the climate crisis ‘a very real threat’ and said it was okay to feel anxious about the environment
Ellie responded: ‘Children are right to feel helpless because the IPCC are very clear that we only have 10 years to stop irreversible climate catastrophe.
‘We should be encouraging eco-anxiety in our leaders, because Boris Johnson shows a complete lack of eco-anxiety, our parliament shows a complete lack of it.
‘Our children are helpless, our leaders aren’t helpless.’
Patrick added: ‘A little bit of eco-anxiety is a good thing. It’s not wrong, it doesn’t need to be pushed away. It’s about embracing it as a motivator.’
But viewers were highly critical of the guests in the segment, with many calling the problem ridiculous.
The trio appeared on the morning programme and said they felt a bit of climate crisis was ‘good’ because it could help motivate action
One commented: ‘Blimey, really? Eco-anxiety, heard it all now.’
Another wrote: ‘Wait until these fools realise we’re all going to die someday.’
One added: ‘Another bunch of upper middle class morons more worried about the climate emergency than actual issues like rising crime.
‘Hilariously out of touch. People with easy lives.’
Another said: ‘You’ve got too much time on your hands love.’