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#WorldMentalHealthDay: Climate Change Is Causing Young People To Develop Eco-Anxiety

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

World mental health day is celebrated every year on 10th October, since 1992. It deals with awareness and advocacy for social stigmas surrounding mental illness. With respect to this, my sole motivation for this article is to acknowledge the effect of climate change on the mental health of an individual.

Source: BBC, gettyimages

The above picture is of Mumbai’s Aarey colony protest, where more than a thousand trees were slashed down to make a metro rail project. It gives us the sense of a dead human body around which people are waiting for the lost. This analogy explains the fact that sooner or later, people start valuing the environment, but there is more to it.

Scholars in the field of climate change have well-argued in their papers, that environment degradations are the new security challenges for the states and possess a threat to its social and political stability. Due to the melting of ice and rising sea level, it is estimated that most of the low lands countries like Bangladesh and Maldives will completely sink by 2030. According to the fifth assessment report, by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change IPCC, the rise of temperature above 1.5 degrees is the threshold and a rise beyond that can cause severe catastrophic damage to our environment.

These are well-researched consequences of climate change on the ecosystem and its sustainability. Beyond this, there are several other impacts of climate change, which are passively prevalent in society and are least addressed. One of them is eco-anxiety. The Psychologists claim that there are large numbers of people suffering from eco-anxiety over the issue of climate change. In simple terms, environmental degradation is affecting the human psyche, making people obsessed and frustrated at the same time, to save the environment.

It is leading to depression and hypersensitivity in people. According to this Reuter report, children are the most affected by eco-anxiety; they feel grief and pain for climate change and believe that climate change is revenge by nature, which the adults have exploited over the years. ‘Eco-anxiety includes, as mentioned in the American psychological association report produced in 2017, “chronic fear of environmental doom”.

The protest carries forward by the 15-year-old climate change activist Greta Thunberg since August 2018, has made a difference and raised people’s concerns about climate change. Her speech at the UN climate action summit on 23rd September,  ‘How dare you’, calls for the adults to panic over climate change, it reflects the aggression, fear and frustration of a 16-year-old girl and many others like her all around the world. The children are frustrated to observe the permanent damage that has been done to nature and they feel they cannot do anything about it. In the documentary by BBC radio1 about eco-anxiety, Sam Johnston from Manchester says,

“When you go to sleep, and start thinking about everything- the state of the planet, really, and the potential future of it- knowing that there’s only so much you can do as one person. I think that’s anxiety- because you feel a bit powerless in it all.”

In my opinion, there is a thin line between a healthy activist to someone who falls prey to eco-anxiety. Another way this anxiety could gain ground is through the means of popular culture; the repercussions of climate change have been projected by many movies and series in recent times; web series like ‘Leila’ and the movie ‘2012’ are examples. They depict the horrendous condition of the future on earth.

The scholars are of the view that civil wars, also called eco-violence, are the major environmental security challenge that states may face shortly. According to the Indian think tank, NITI Aayog report, the four major cities of India, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, and Hyderabad will run out of underground water affecting over 100 million people by 2025. This water crisis can be a reason for civil unrest among people, and its consequences will be severe on individual mental health.

Psychologists believe that through several measures, these anxieties could be managed. With respect to children, parents should talk to them about how they feel about climate change and make them believe that tackling it is not their sole responsibility. Adults should also talk about it and be the cause for change, with small efforts in the surrounding environment like workplaces and homes.

One should be conscious of everyday activities in fighting climate change. The small efforts towards change matter a lot if everyone contributes, keeping in mind the larger picture of environmental destruction happening around us.


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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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