7 December 2022

Pastoral carer training seeks to help tackle climate change trauma

A growing number of Australians are directly experiencing climate-change related emergencies. Picture: iStock.

Jenan Taylor

25 October 2022

People might process their climate change anxieties better, if encouraged to discuss it with others, a mental health expert says.

Climate psychologist Dr Sally Gillespie is set to join an expert panel about climate pastoral care, ahead of the launch of a new online course.

The course seeks to equip church leaders and communities to give pastoral support to people experiencing climate anxiety, climate grief and other related emotions.

Dr Gillespie said she would be addressing the importance of facilitating conversations about climate-change trauma and listening to the intensity of people’s distress.

She said a growing number of Australians were experiencing climate change anxiety, and that events like the flooding in Victoria and NSW were likely to add to it.

Common reactions included feelings of anger, guilt, depression, and even extreme thoughts about existential threat could arise, she said.

Read more: Founders’ Lecture set to challenge faith priorities

But Dr Gillespie said individuals had a hard time understanding their emotional and mental responses because climate change was a large and complex subject.

“It’s very hard to consciously hold that in our mind. But it’s important to sit down in groups and at least with one other person, and try to talk about the many different sides to it and what comes up when we hear the climate change statistics,” she said.

Dr Gillespie said such discussions could strengthen collaborations and open ways for people to act together.

The online course is a collaboration between USA-based environmental organisation Waterspirit and Australian ecological advocate Jessica Morthorpe.

Ms Morthorpe said the course would also examine how racial factors affected climate anxiety, how it was felt by First Nations’ people and climate migrants, and what it meant to be a good pastor to those and other communities.

Christian social and environmental justice organisation Common Grace will host the expert panel in a webinar on Saturday 29 October.

To join visit commongrace.org.au/climate_pastoral_care_course

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