Support space opened here to help those struggling with the mental health consequences of climate change.
This marker is located at 833 Massachusetts Ave in Arlington, Massachusetts.
In discussions about climate change, people often talk about building dams to hold back rising sea levels, switching to electric cars to avoid using gas, and other external measures. However, we rarely discuss how the climate crisis affects our internal wellbeing. The anxiety of the crisis alone greatly affects our population. A 2020 poll by the American Psychiatric Association revealed that more than ⅔ of Americans are “somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on the planet”, and more than half are “somewhat or extremely anxious about the impact of climate change on their own mental health.” The specific impacts of the climate crisis also have the potential to greatly hurt people’s mental health. Even while most of us are relatively safe from natural disasters in Arlington, we may feel anxiety about family members in areas prone to natural disaster, and some of us have even experienced loss of loved ones due to climate catastrophe. We are also experiencing the grief that comes with watching animal species go extinct, or the anxiety that many climate refugees are forced to feel due to lack of housing and scarcity of food.
However, like every aspect of the climate crisis, there are ways to adapt to the situation and find small solutions that will counteract the impact of the climate crisis on our mental health. Opening a mental health center or even a hotline geared towards those struggling with the climate crisis can give people a space to discuss their concerns while being together in community. The Arlington Community Center is an ideal, central location for this. The Support Space opened in 2027 in a building behind Arlington Town Hall that at the time contained the Arlington Senior Center, the Arlington Department of Health, and the Arlington Center for the Arts. At the same time, people were urged to include small individual acts such as meditation, yoga, and making space in busy schedules for opportunities for joy; it was recognized that this can also have a positive impact as we seek to live with the losses caused by climate change.
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Overall, it’s important to try to retain a sense of optimism so that we can continue to work for positive change. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer scale of this crisis, we must try to remember that, even if it takes time, this crisis will be solved, as long as we are all working together towards a just transition.
Many climate justice organizations put an emphasis on community building and strengthening relationships, in order to help boost a feeling of safety and hopefulness as we work together. For example, organizations such as the Sunrise Movement promote singing songs together whenever possible, and always provide space for sharing feelings and emotions that may come up during the difficult work. Even for those who may not belong to a larger organization, they can bring that attitude into their individual work as well, and make sure to let themselves process those feelings. Worldwide climate organization Extinction Rebellion provides a few activities that individuals can do to promote what they call “regenerative culture”, which can be reached here. Environmental artist Sophy Tuttle also provides a “guide to grief” meant to help people work through their feelings in the face of the climate crisis. The guide accompanies her mixed media art piece titled “Solastalgia”.
American Psychiatric Association, “New APA Poll Reveals That Americans are Increasingly Anxious About Climate Change’s Impact on Planet, Mental Health”
Sunrise Movement, youth-led climate activism
Extinction Rebellion/NYC, “Regenerative Culture”
Sophy Tuttle, Solastalgia