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In the News: Recent Winter Storms Can Spur Eco-Anxiety, Especially Among Young People

Behavioral Health Director Dr. Nicole Stelter shares the findings of Blue Shield of California’s NextGen Climate Survey with Sacramento’s CapRadio.
Nicole Stelter_crop
Nicole Stelter

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 became more relevant in the past couple of weeks after several inches of rain fell on much of California and several feet of snow in the Sierra.

Dr. Stelter was asked to speak about some of the findings in last year’s Blue Shield of California NextGen Climate Survey, specifically the effects climate change events were having on the mental health of young people.

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 worries” from observing the irrevocable impact of climate change and the resulting feeling of hopelessness. Anxiety about missing instructional time is compounded by the arising lesser-known mental health symptom eco-anxiety.

Kylie Huang, a 17-year-old Mira Loma High student, concurs. “Now, seeing how much the climate has shifted and weather patterns are drastically changing, it's really nerve-wracking,” she said. “You feel like there's nothing that you can do about it.”

Between 2020 and 2022, Stelter’s peers at Blue Shield conducted a national Youth Climate and Mental Health survey with 1,300 young people between ages 14-24, 369 of whom were based in California. The study revealed an explicit connection between physical health, mental health, and the environment, with 75% of those surveyed in California experiencing at least one health issue related to an environmental event.

Stelter and her peers found that Huang’s emotions are not anomalous.

“Whether we're talking about wildfires, heat waves, severe weather, flooding, I think the extremes and then the continuation can feel overwhelming,” said Stelter. “When it's right there interrupting the day-to-day, not just for young people, but their parents and communities, it has a pretty pervasive impact.”

Read the full CapRadio story here

Click here to learn more about Blue Shield’s BlueSky youth mental health initiative.