Psychologists for Future in Freiburg help those affected – SWR Aktuell

The world is racing towards the climate catastrophe unchecked. The 1.5 degree threshold could be exceeded as early as 2026. In order not to despair here, psychological help is sometimes needed.

Annika Kirschke from Schallstadt (Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald district) has been involved in the climate movement for several years. But the more she dealt with the scientific evidence for the climate catastrophe, the more depressed the music teacher became. Despite the many bad news, she hardly saw a change of course in society. It was a bad feeling for her.

“Everyone else can push the climate crisis away or they don’t care. I thought, that can’t be true, that it doesn’t depress everyone as much as it does me.”

Climate fear as an inner dilemma

Annika Kirschke often wondered how to deal with her depression. What should she do about the nagging thoughts that inevitably filled her as she contemplated the future? An inner conflict that the mother mostly dealt with herself. After all, it was about not putting too much strain on private and family life.

“I can’t constantly tyrannize my environment and my family as a prophetess.”

From depression to traumatic conditions

Astrid Kerner from “Psychologists for Future” in Freiburg supports climate-sensitive people like Annika Kirschke. The symptoms are varied. Some would react to the climate crisis with fear, others with powerlessness. Or, according to the psychologist, they felt at the mercy and hopeless. This can then also cause depression, in some cases even conditions that are reminiscent of post-traumatic stress disorder. Especially people from the climate movement would often suffer from a kind of burn-out. It is important, emphasizes Kerner, not to pathologize the fear of climate change.

“The climate fear and its symptoms are not pathological, but are appropriate reactions to a catastrophe that is rolling towards humanity.”

The psychotherapist Astrid Kerner from Psychologists of Future Freiburg advises people with climate anxiety.  (Photo: SWR, Gabi Krings)

The psychotherapist Astrid Kerner from “Psychologists of Future” in Freiburg advises people with climate anxiety.


Gabi Krings

Hardly any scientific knowledge on climate change

According to Astrid Kerner, who treats affected patients, climate anxiety is still a relatively new and unexplored area in psychology. In some cases, she also uses methods from trauma therapy. The psychotherapist reports that the demand for climate-sensitive treatment collapsed almost exactly with the start of the Ukraine war and the danger of a third world war and a nuclear escalation. But that could also be the “calm before the storm”. Many people are currently in a state of shock in the face of multiple catastrophes. The approximately two dozen members of “Psychologists for Future” in Freiburg expect that there could soon be more crowds. They continue to maintain their offers for climate-sensitive people – an open discussion café, individual and group discussions as well as therapies. It is important to be able to talk about the feelings caused by the climate crisis.

“It’s like being overwhelmed by all the global crises. A state of paralysis that takes time to resolve. That’s why we’re prepared.”

Confidence instead of doomsday mood

Annika Kirschke from Schallstadt was also in a consultation. She has now found a way to deal with her climate anxiety. Walks in nature or voluntary work with like-minded people in the neighborhood help her against the mood of the end of the world. However, it is “a very fine line to get involved and expose yourself to it and at the same time remain stable and full of life”. But the mother feels that she has a responsibility towards future generations and that resignation is therefore not an option.