Blue Shield of California Director of Behavioral Health Dr. Nicole Stelter was recently featured on Sacramento’s CapRadio commenting on climate change, its effects on children, and the phenomenon known as “Eco-Anxiety.”
The story was first conceptualized by reporter Srishti Prabha during a series of extreme heat waves in California last year and gained relevance in recent weeks after several inches of rain fell across much of California and several feet of snow in the Sierra.
Dr. Stelter was asked to speak on some of the findings in last year’s Blue Shield of California NextGen Climate Survey, specifically the effects of climate change on young people’s mental health.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
Dr. Nicole Stelter, director of behavioral health for Blue Shield of California, defined eco-anxiety as “perceptions and concerns” from observing the irrevocable impact of climate change and the resulting sense of hopelessness. Anxiety about missing instructional time is exacerbated by the emerging lesser-known mental health symptom, eco-anxiety.
Kylie Huang, a 17-year-old Mira Loma High student, agrees. “Now when you see how much the climate has changed and weather patterns are changing drastically, it’s really unnerving,” she said. “You feel like there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Between 2020 and 2022, Stelter’s colleagues at Blue Shield conducted a national youth climate and mental health survey of 1,300 young people between the ages of 14 and 24, 369 of whom lived in California. The study revealed an explicit link between physical health, mental health and the environment, with 75% of those surveyed in California experiencing at least one health problem related to an environmental event.
Stelter and her colleagues found that Huang’s emotions are not abnormal.
“Whether we’re talking wildfires, heat waves, severe weather, flooding, I think the extremes and then the continuation can be overwhelming,” Stelter said. “If it’s there that interrupts everyday life, not just for young people, but for their parents and communities, it has quite a pervasive impact.”
Read the full CapRadio story here.
Click here to learn more about BlueSky’s Youth Mental Health Initiative from Blue Shield.