University offers course to help students deal with ‘eco-anxiety’

A university is offering its students a mindfulness course to help ease their “eco-anxiety”.

The course of six sessions, one per week and each lasting two hours, is being launched at the University of East Anglia (UEA) and was developed together with mental health charity Norfolk and Waveney Mind.

The university said that eco-anxiety was a “direct result of the feelings of grief and distress stemming from the knowledge of climate concerns and its psychological impact”.

A UEA spokesperson said that “more widespread support for eco-anxiety has been developed in response to local needs in Norfolk, where people are becoming acutely conscious of rising sea levels as local coastal communities experience dramatic coastal erosion”.

Claire Pratt, associate director of student services at UEA, said: “We know that eco-anxiety is a massive issue for our students today, and so we wanted to get involved and do something to tackle these feelings.”

She said that she hoped the course could help students to “feel better about climate anxiety and provide a supportive atmosphere for discussion and mindfulness”.

UEA post-graduate student Azza Dirar, who helped design the Mindfulness and Active Hope course, said: “The focus is not on the overwhelming bleak evidence of climate change and environmental degradation, but rather on how we can act with courage and wisdom during a time of looming ecological and societal collapse.”

Ruth Taylor, social development manager at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, said: “It’s totally normal to feel worried, upset, overwhelmed, ashamed or angry about the climate emergency.

“But there are many things we can do to increase our emotional resilience and keep a helpful and engaged perspective on the crisis.”

The course “combines aspects of mindfulness and the Active Hope model – taken from the best-selling book of the same name by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone – to offer support around climate anxiety and eco-grief”, the UEA said.

UEA is hosting the first of the sessions on Wednesday.