The co-occurring crises of climate change, a global pandemic, and the social justice movement has put demands on psychosocial resilience. The country and global community has witnessed that those who contribute the least to climate change are the most impacted, and that black, indigenous, and people of color bear the health and financial burdens brought on by a changing climate. Given that eco-anxiety is on the rise amongst young people, such increases in awareness building have not yielded action at the speed and scale necessary to protect the most climate-sensitive among us: children and youth. Raising healthy children and youth is not divorced from nurturing mental health and wellness. Through a literature review of peer reviewed and gray literature, as well as expert interviews, the paper demonstrates the imperative to acknowledge and address contemporary needs of mental health in children and youth due to the co-occurring crises. It is time for a national effort to prioritize building psychosocial resilience in children and youth. It is essential to center psychosocial resilience through these various levers on the lives of BIPOC children and youth who experience disproportionate negative effects of one or more crises exacerbated by historic, structural and current environmental injustices. Not only is it imperative to expedite just and equitable actions to protect a world borrowed from children and generations to come, it is a responsibility to ensure those generations have the social and emotional tools to thrive.

Key Take Away Points

  • While climate- and eco-anxiety are on the rise, there are major gaps in the peer reviewed and grey literature about the impact of climate events on the mental health of children and youth, especially those who are Black, Indigenous and people of color.
  • Despite general acknowledgement that the disruption caused by displacement due to extreme weather events is traumatic for children, very little discussion of this was found in the literature.
  • The issues of eco- and climate-anxiety and mental health impacts of displacement after climate events are symptomatic of greater societal problems that are largely driven by structural racism. These complex matters must be approached with community-driven policy and systems solutions that are grounded in principles of equity and justice.

Author Biography

Surili Sutaria Patel is a trusted voice in public health who champions diversity and works to advance health equity and environmental justice. Surili approaches health and the environment through thoughtful coalition building and innovative strategies that work to advance equity and improve access. With a profound public health and biomedical research background, she has led the climate and health discussion out of environmental circles and into the broader health realm. Kate Robb is the Senior Program Manager of the environmental health program within the Center for Public Health Policy at the American Public Health Association. In this role, she works to advance equitable and just policies, programs and decisions that impact the health of disenfranchised populations. She received her Master of Science in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. C. Pluff is the program manager for the Center for School, Health and Education at APHA. She holds a BA in policy and performance studies and an MA in conflict resolution with a focus on liberatory education and systems change from Georgetown University. Grace Tatar is a climate, health and equity intern at APHA and graduating senior at George Washington University. Evelyn Maldonado, Program Associate at the American Public Health Association's Center for Climate, Health and Equity, obtained her Bachelor's degree in Environmental Science and Policy with a concentration in land use from the University of Maryland. Tia Taylor Williams is a champion for health, equity and justice with 18 years of experience in public health. At the APHA, Tia provides strategic oversight to a diverse portfolio of projects addressing racism and other social factors that influence health. Tia holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Master’s degrees in Public Health and Nutrition and Integrative Health.