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Sufferers of 'eco-anxiety' say they're terrified of climate crisis

Barely a day goes by when climate change isn’t in the headlines, whether it’s the bushfires in Australia or melting polar ice caps we’re becoming more worried as a nation about the environment. But some people are feeling even more concerned than others and suffering from eco-anxiety; a feeling of helplessness about the state of the planet.

Joining us today are Pippa Best and Ellie Smith, who say they both struggle with eco-anxiety, alongside Dr Patrick Kennedy-Williams, who’s seeing a rise in this condition.

On the environment always having been a concern, Pippa commented: “It’s always been something I’ve cared about. I live in Cornwall so I am surrounded by natural beauty. But for me it’s been everything I’ve been involved in in my life has been related to the environment in some way and how we can care for it.”

Pippa spoke of how the bushfires in Australia have recently escalated her fears even more: “We desperately want to do something, but we often feel powerless and I know for me, I also have two kids who are also really concerned for the environment so a lot of my fear really stems from worrying about their future. Worrying about other kids like them who are already experiencing the effects of climate change.”

Fellow eco-anxiety sufferer Ellie added: “When I came to London and I saw Extinction Rebellion, I started to do more research and that’s when I started to think, ‘Oh my goodness, this is real. We are approaching a climate catastrophe.’

“I started a magazine called ‘Panic Panic’ which is basically a way of saying eco-anxiety, it’s not necessarily a mental health condition, it’s a really understandable emotional response to the climate crisis. And so I wanted people to feel okay being anxious and feeling scared, because it’s important we take action and we need those emotions if we’re going to take action.”

On the effects of eco-anxiety, Pippa said: “If I read a little too much it might affect my sleep, I’ll feel anxious, I’ll worry about my kids. I just feel like crying and not wanting to do stuff. I think it makes you freeze and then you feel stuck. At which point, you need to notice that you’re feeling stuck by it and need to look after yourself with mindfulness and self-compassion.”

Ellis spoke of chest tightening, heart palpitations and insomnia, plus depressive symptoms like hopelessness, fear and despair. She said: “What’s the point of me getting up in the morning? What’s the point in going to work? I’m 23, we’re going to see climate crisis in my lifetime and the future is not looking very bright at the moment.”

Dr. Patrick Kennedy-Williams spoke about how he has been seeing patients with eco-anxiety for a couple of years now and those patients are from a range of backgrounds - young people, older people and grandparents who are worried about their grandkids.

He reassured: “It’s okay to be feeling this way, there’s a very real threat here… this is the reality we’re facing.”

Ellie concluded by saying that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and our government are showing a lack of eco-anxiety and that they should be encouraged to feel this emotion, rather than our children feeling this way. She added: “Our children are helpless, our leaders aren’t helpless, and they’re not taking the necessary action.”

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