Report: Some Climate Change Activists Facing Mental Health Issues

JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Taxpayer-funded National Public Radio (NPR) reports the non-stop drumbeat of propaganda on how only a few years remain for the planet and its inhabitants if climate change isn’t stopped is now causing mental health problems for some activists.

“The environmental movement is doing more to address the psychological toll on activists and volunteers, encouraging resilience and self-care to counteract anxiety and grief over planetary damage,” the report on Weekend Edition Saturday begins.

The report includes details on an activist who committed suicide. Alex Smith of a public radio station in Kansas City reported on the death:

“When I was growing up in the Kansas City suburbs, I had a friend named Kevin Aaron, who was a dedicated environmentalist,” Smith said. “What I loved about Kevin was that he believed in the better angels of our nature. Instead of shouting down opponents, he tried to convince them to be part of the solution.”

“In the early 2000s, Kevin went to Oakland to study environmental law and start his career, but he became overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness about the climate. This added to the depression he was already struggling with,”  Smith said. “In 2003, Kevin died by suicide. He was 27 years old. His death was a shock and remains painful for those who loved him.”

Smith said Kevin’s mother “said the more deeply her son became involved in environmental activism, the more his thinking was taken over by pessimism, just like an invasive species.”

“There was one little seed that was planted where he couldn’t then quit thinking about it,” Sami Arron said. “And so that seed sprout a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more.”

TOPSHOT - Environmental activists rally during the UK Student Climate Network's Global Climate Strike protest action in central London, on September 20, 2019. - Millions of people are taking to the streets across the world in what could be the largest climate protest in history. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Environmental activists rally during the UK Student Climate Network’s Global Climate Strike protest action in central London. (BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

“Kevin couldn’t shake the idea that his activism was futile and even all the combined environmental efforts just wouldn’t be enough,” Smith said.

“At some point, there was this whole forest of eucalyptus trees in his metaphoric mind that just wasn’t going to make any difference,” Kevin’s mother said.

She started The Resilient Activist “as her way of sharing the coping strategies she learned following her son’s death.”

“We need activists who have the resilience to see us through these difficult times, and that’s what I wanted to give,” Aaron said, before adding his note of hope.

“It was like what would have helped him and others like him.”

Smith cited a recent poll — NPR did not provide the name of or a link to the poll — that said more than half of adults said climate change is affecting their mental health and 40 percent of young adults said it is “their highest personal concern.”

Smith also interviewed a college student at the University of Kansas who said protesting and other activism “helps him get through what he calls dark days.”

In 2018 the radical Greenpeace International started studying why activists are burning out, according to NPR.

Agustin Maggio is the global Break Free campaign manager for Greenpeace.

“Burning yourself out is almost like a badge of honor,” Maggio said in the NPR report. “So really, overworking yourself and giving up your life for the cause is considered to be something admirable.”

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