Azza Dirar (left) with students at a Mind eco-anxiety session
(Photo credit: Norfolk and Waveney Mind)
An innovative ‘Mindfulness and Active Hope’ course, the only one of its type in the UK, is being launched at the University of East Anglia (UEA) to help students manage eco-anxiety.
Developed through a unique partnership and collaboration between local mental health charity Norfolk and Waveney Mind (NWM) and UEA, the course aims to help students cope with eco-anxiety, cultivate self-care, and understand how to transform their fear and grief on issues like climate change.
The course, designed by NWM, combines aspects of mindfulness and the Active Hope model (taken from the best-selling book of the same name by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone) to offer support around climate anxiety and eco-grief.
Starting on Wednesday 2 November, the ‘Mindfulness and Active Hope’ course is free to attend for UEA students and will run between 6pm and 8pm every Wednesday for six weeks in Earlham Hall on UEA campus in Norwich.
Co-produced with UEA students, the course has been adapted to provide much needed support for students who are experiencing fear, grief and distress in the wake of eco-anxieties stemming from climate change.
According to 2021 figures from The Lancet, 45% of 16 to 25-year-olds say concerns about climate change affects their daily lives, with many currently experiencing extreme anxiety about how they will live in a world with an unpredictable climate and the destruction of nature.
Drawing on the wisdom in the bestseller “Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Creative Power”, from the ‘Work That Reconnects’ movement, the course aims to:
Azza Dirar, UEA postgraduate student and co-designer and cofacilitator of the Mindfulness and Active Hope course, said: “I am grateful for this course and wish that I had come across something like this earlier in my time as a student of global environmental issues. In my opinion, it fills a huge gap in the way we currently engage with climate change as students and researchers.
“The focus is not on the overwhelming bleak evidence of climate change and environmental degradation, but rather on how we can act with courage and wisdom during a time of looming ecological and societal collapse.”
Eco-anxiety is a direct result of the feelings of grief and distress stemming from the knowledge of climate concerns and its psychological impact. This phenomenon is evidenced by research from the University of Bath, which describes alarming levels of widespread distress in young people who feel failed by governmental inaction to climate change.
The ‘Mindfulness and Active Hope’ course is part of the wider, ground-breaking sUStain project led by NWM, in partnership with Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) and UEA, that offers a range of interventions to support eco-anxiety amongst adults and young people. All sUStain events are developed to help normalise fears and offer strategies towards sustained self-care, such as climate cafés and awareness-raising events.
Active Hope is the concept of finding, and offering, the best response when facing concerns about the world situation, including when we do not feel hopeful. Hope becomes something we do, rather than what we feel.
More widespread support for eco-anxiety has been developed in response to local needs in Norfolk, where people are becoming acutely conscious of rising sea levels as local coastal communities experience dramatic coastal erosion.
Ruth Taylor, Social Development Manager at Norfolk and Waveney Mind, explained: “It’s totally normal to feel worried, upset, overwhelmed, ashamed or angry about the climate emergency. But there are many things we can do to increase our emotional resilience and keep a helpful and engaged perspective on the crisis.
“Active Hope is a skill we can all learn to practice and put into action, even if at times we feel despairing and disempowered. By sharing these feelings in this course, we can resource themselves together and find new perspectives that can inspire us into positive action.”
Claire Pratt, Associate Director of Student Services (Wellbeing) at UEA, said: “We know that eco-anxiety is a massive issue for our students today, and so we wanted to get involved and do something to tackle these feelings. Teaming up with Norfolk and Waveney Mind seemed like a good way to achieve this. Through this course, we can hopefully help people to feel better about climate anxiety and provide a supportive atmosphere for discussion and mindfulness.”
This innovative course will focus on how to draw upon mindfulness skills and the radical concept of Active Hope to help people adjust to a rapidly changing world, amidst the unfolding climate emergency and biodiversity loss.
For more information on the sUStain programme, please contact: sUStain@norfolkandwaveneymind.org.uk or call 0300 3305488.
Nurses around the world use intuition to work out how sick a patient is before triaging for treatment according to new research from the University of East Anglia.Read more
On Sunday 24 September, University of East Anglia (UEA) nursing apprentice Francessca Turrell will be taking part in a charity skydive for Alzheimers Society, a UK care and research charity for people with dementia and their carers.Read more
Logo Rewind: Trademarks of Medieval Norwich is a new book from UEA Publishing Project, in collaboration with CreativeUEA and featuring the work of Darren Leader, which will focus on the stories of Norwichs medieval merchants marks found in different locatRead more