What is it about?

Climate change has had an acute effect on the mental health of children and adolescents in the form of grief, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and a heightened risk of suicide. This study examines this mental health concern among the youth by analyzing press articles published between 2018 and 2021. They authors found that newspaper narratives tend to push “childism”— the view that children are immature beings who are owned by adults. The authors also studied the relationship between minors and their parents in terms of how the adults deal with their anxiety—whether they prefer curbing, criticizing, or encouraging environmental action among the youth. Finally, they identified common traps that parents tend to fall into while dealing with their children’s eco-anxiety and offer solutions.

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Why is it important?

Adults tend to cope with climate anxiety through immature defenses, such as repressing painful emotions, avoiding responsibility, projecting fears and hopes onto others, and avoiding reading articles that trigger feelings of guilt and shame. This has led to decades of climate inaction, which has ultimately caused irreversible climate change. Newspaper narratives have been indulging their adult readers by encouraging childism. This is good for neither their mental health nor for climate action. KEY TAKEAWAY Child and adolescent mental health care providers should also be aware of these narratives and help parents deal with childism effectively. Parents and adults can also work towards climate action, thereby encouraging and empowering children and creating a hope for a better world in the future.

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This page is a summary of: Review: Ecological awareness, anxiety, and actions among youth and their parents – a qualitative study of newspaper narratives, Child and Adolescent Mental Health, October 2021, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/camh.12514.
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