Climate change is considered amongst the greatest threats to our personal, societal and planetary wellbeing. Today’s children and young people are some of the most vulnerable to the impacts. Significant disruptions are predicted for them as they navigate more frequent extreme weather events, in parallel with major lifestyle and community changes as we move to a zero-carbon economy. Mental health implications are significant.
A global study, inclusive of Australia, has clearly identified that many young people are deeply concerned about what they will face in their future. This is giving rise to complex emotions such as sadness, powerlessness, fear and grief, and a generalised anxiety that their future is being taken from them. There is anger about reduced opportunity and security, and a growing hesitancy to have their own children. Feelings of betrayal by government and loss of confidence in adults to take urgent cohesive action to protect their future are sources of hopelessness, helplessness and despair.
Mental health practitioners have a key role to offer safe and compassionate spaces for children and young people to voice their concerns, to be heard, and to have their feelings validated and respected. We can offer support for making sense of the feelings and finding ways of coming into relationship with them so that they are not overwhelming and disabling. Also relevant to explore are ways of coping, realistic hope, pathways for responding and strategies for bolstering stress resilience.
There is a role for children and young people in addressing the climate emergency and it is important that we walk alongside them to be part of the solutions. The growing scale and scope of need will require more than therapeutic settings can offer, and so also included in this workshop is age-appropriate guidance for sharing with concerned parents and caregivers to assist them to support their children.
Merle Conyer supports individuals, teams, organisations and communities responding to interpersonal, institutional, political, cultural and environmental trauma, healing and justice. Contexts in which she contributes include mental health, legal, government, academic and community sectors, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services, organisations facilitating redress for institutional abuse, and those contributing to human rights, social justice and environmental justice.
Her track record includes board, management, service delivery and volunteer roles. Through her independent practice she currently offers counselling, supervision, debriefing, training, groupwork, wellbeing support and consulting services. She interweaves interdisciplinary wisdoms such as somatic psychotherapy, trauma-informed practice, narrative therapy, ecological psychotherapy, focusing and mindfulness practices, and is guided by both clinical and cultural supervision.
Merle is an Accredited Supervisor and Clinical Member with the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia. She holds a Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, Master of
Counselling and Applied Psychotherapy, Master of Education, Graduate Diploma of Communication Management (Human Resource Development), and Diplomas of Somatic Psychotherapy and Energetic Healing.
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