From deadly wildfires to record-breaking storms to life-threatening heat waves, climate change has brought disastrous effects that are profoundly impacting human health and increasing young people’s anxiety about their future. This is especially true for young people from under-resourced and frontline communities of color. And while young people are leading efforts to respond to the climate crisis, as philanthropists, we must play a larger role in supporting them.

The opportunity before us involves catalyzing the development of resources that help young people emotionally navigate the climate crisis. A challenge of this magnitude calls for a groundswell of investment in climate mental health initiatives across philanthropic sectors – private, public, and corporate.

Meaningful field-level change begins when we work as funders across deeply interwoven issues, including mental health, climate change, education, and community resilience building, to seize the opportunity to support communities that need resources to heal, to adapt, and to sustain themselves. Most importantly, we must engage in intergenerational collaboration with young people to deepen the ways we understand the urgent challenges at the intersection of climate change and youth mental health.

In the wake of yet another record-breaking summer, it’s evident that the climate crisis is profoundly impacting the lives and mental health of young people.  They are deeply distressed about the state of our climate – with 75 percent of youth worldwide reporting the ‘future is frightening.’ Climate-induced natural disasters and climate-caused migration and displacement, heighten the risk of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and substance use among teens and young adults, and extreme heat has been directly linked to increased mental health-related emergency visits and aggressive behavior among young people.

Youth from under-resourced communities and communities of color are especially impacted. They have greater exposure to carbon-related pollution and extreme weather events, such as heat or flooding, but possess fewer physical or emotional resources to mitigate these impacts or recover in the long term.  For example, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, children from families hit hardest by the storm were the most likely to experience months-long disruptions to schooling and also received less social support a year later.

The Wellcome Trust has been a leader, sponsoring ‘Connecting Climate Minds‘ aimed at bringing together researchers, nonprofits, and individuals, including youth with lived experiences, to align research and action at the intersection of climate change and mental health.  Its goal is to make it easier for other funders to act on the gaps and opportunities, and build more cohesion, collaboration, and participatory research in this burgeoning field.

Read the full article about helping youth respond to climate change by Sarah Newman and Emma Bruehlman-Seneca at Alliance Magazine.