Younger generation defines and copes with new mental health issue: ecological grief


Climate despair may be spreading increasingly as the climate crisis looms heavy on the minds of Colorado College (CC) students. Also referred to as solastalgia, eco-despair, or eco-grief, this overwhelming feeling of worry and hopelessness is increasingly the emotional response to climate change. Students at CC gauge awareness of eco-grief as a mental health struggle today.

“I get really anxious and sad thinking about it, it can ruin my day in about three seconds,” said environmental science major, Evan Foster.

Thoughts like Foster’s are increasingly common among young people, especially those who are studying climate change, and are constantly bombarded with the sad reality of its detrimental effects.

CC is a very liberal-minded community, especially when it comes to the environment; and so, it serves to reason that the community would be feeling impacts of ecological grief. The college is known for its outdoor culture, which encourages members of the community to engage with the natural world in a myriad of ways. As students foster such a passion for the environment, they encounter eco-grief in different ways.

A group of CC students showed mixed feelings and impressions of eco-grief. “I thought that was a kind of plant or something,” said student Brooke Miller. “Yeah, makes sense,” added her peer, Stella Biehl, in agreeance to the validity of the idea.

Eco-grief induces an anxious and overwhelming mental state of spiraling. “I think if you’ve reached that point, there’s probably something else already off with your mental health,” said CC sophomore student Gaby Jadotte.

What this questioning of CC students shows is that awareness and education of eco-grief as a mental health struggle needs to be more apparent. Among the ever-piling up of climate related issues today, assessing feelings of eco-grief will likely become a greater priority to scientists and mental health professionals. CC students wonder, if we can’t support our own mental health in the face of such a serious problem, do we even stand a chance?

“People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you,” said Greta Thunberg, young climate activist and founder of the School Strike for Climate Movement.

Thunberg reminds the world of the sheer weight brought on by the climate issue, and of the fact that the bulk of this weight is being put on the shoulders of the world’s younger generation. It’s no wonder it is taking a toll on mental health.

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