The silent storm: The climate crisis’ impact on student mental health

The silent storm: The climate crisis’ impact on student mental health

‘Climate anxiety’ has gained increasing traction in the media, but the relationship between climate change and mental health is a relatively new study, especially in higher education. According to a new report from Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, the impact of the climate crisis on students’ mental health and wellbeing is significant.

The October 2023 report reveals that from the sample of students surveyed, 71 percent are quite or very concerned about climate change, while 90 percent say it impacts their mental health and wellbeing in the preceding four weeks.

This is unsurprising, given the urgency to find solutions across every discipline to mitigate the impacts of climate change on both the environment and humanity.

Jade Mayum studies environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, which is ranked second in the QS World University Rankings: Sustainability 2024. Alongside her studies, Mayum works for the university’s Student Environmental Resource Centre on the Nature Education and Wellbeing Together programme.

When asked if she feels the pressure to shape the world and have an impact on the climate crisis, Mayum says: “Definitely. In class, I learn about many problems facing the world and the further threat we face if more action isn’t taken and it can feel overwhelming. I often wonder how I can fix it all.”

There is collective anxiety among her peers to figure out how to make an impact while trying to succeed in their modules and assignments, according to Mayum. “None of us want to leave and have wasted the opportunity we had at university, so there is a definite pressure to solve every problem we can. It’s impossible, really.”

A strong desire to make a difference

In the Student Minds report, students widely expressed a desire to make a positive contribution to tackling climate change but often felt like they didn’t know where to start.

“We can no longer ignore that climate change is happening and we can’t ignore the impacts it’s having on mental health either,” says Jenny Smith, policy manager for Student Minds and author of the report. “It’s understandable and very normal to have an emotional reaction to what is ultimately an existential threat to humanity.

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