CONCEPTUALISATIONS OF ECOLOGICAL DISTRESS IN THE GLOBAL MEDIA AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PRACTICE: A QUALITATIVE STUDY
This thesis investigated the psychological implications of climate change on individuals and communities by examining the conceptual frameworks of eco-anxiety, eco-distress, and eco- grief. To provide a better understanding of these terms, the study employed two distinct approaches. Firstly, a qualitative analysis was conducted to investigate how the media conceptualised these terms, as they provided easy-to-access information for the public on climate change and mental health impacts. Secondly, registered psychologists in Aotearoa New Zealand were interviewed to gain insight into their perspectives and how they understood these eco-terms in relation to young people. The study revealed that eco-distress was understood as an all-encompassing term that described the overall experience of distress caused by anthropogenic climate change. Eco-anxiety, on the other hand, was commonly used in news media to describe the distress caused by climate change, but it was found to be a narrow and limited term. Eco-grief was also identified as a subset of eco-distress, which described the experience of grieving for losses resulting from anthropogenic climate change.
It was emphasised that using terms that accurately described and legitimised the emotional experiences of individuals affected by climate change was important to mitigate the psychological impacts of climate change on individuals without pathologising language. The study highlighted the significance of addressing the psychological effects of climate change to promote mental health and well-being. Establishing a shared language and understanding of these concepts is crucial to better communicate and develop more effective approaches to treatment. A nuanced understanding of eco-distress may be crucial for individuals to receive comprehensive support to manage their mental health and take positive steps towards addressing environmental concerns. Overall, this research aimed to bring more conceptual clarity to the eco-related terms by investigating these concepts using two distinct approaches and emphasised the importance of addressing the psychological effects of climate change.