Should people working on aspects of ecological destruction be offered psychological support at work?

I have been pondering this for a while. I have decided to write it up now having heard a news report about research by sports psychologist  Dr Misia Gervis at Brunel University which suggests that professional sports people (footballers in her study), going through long term injury and related rehab, should have psychological support as a matter of routine to help against depression, anxiety and identity loss.

My partner and I are serial watchers of the Nordic (and other)  noir crime series such as the Killing, The Bridge, Wallander, The Spiral (French – brilliant)  (although my interest in them is now waning rapidly). It has struck me how – in varying ways in these series, the protagonists are seen as deeply damaged and stressed by the work they do. Family ties are fractured, personal mental and physical health challenged. This is by the relentless pressure, and being ‘face to face’ with the ‘horror’ of a range of crimes or even ‘evil’. Often they are offered, or have to go through, psychological support procedures,  sometimes – as ‘maverick cops’ – with some reluctance.

A;  of course this is fiction, in terms of the police stuff at least, and b; I am sure such jobs should  merit the need for psychological support.

Recently I wrote and presented at the Stories of the Anthropocene conference, Stockholm

“I think about the ecocide crisis, the mass extinctions – the despoliation of ecosystems,  and cultural systems,  every day, and probably every waking hour of every day. The feelings I get when REMEMBERING losing the farm are reactivated, (and vice versa) I live in semi-permanent  state of adrenalized flight/panic mode. I am not very good at breathing.

I know I am part of – we  (modern humans) are all part of –  a devastating tragedy like no other – taking place right here right now.”

Full article here

This article also discussed that fact I have self-harming and suicidal thoughts, and that I also self-harm through excessive alcohol consumption.

Basically, I think my line of work puts me at risk. (Although I don’t think whatever I did I would stop thinking about the environment question). But at present it is my job to stare ecocide in the face everyday. Should my employers provide me with psychological support? Is this a duty in terms of my health? Would it make me cope better and be more ‘productive’? Should other academics, scholars, policy professionals, and activists be supported in the same way? If they required it? I guess some might be better equipped to cope. I might be more ‘vulnerable’ for various reasons.

This is a question – not a proposal. But as always – asking a question is a political act in itself.

Asked to comment on this Professor Kate Rigby replied  (thanks for permission to quote);


Hi, yes, I think this is important, although I’m not very confident about work-base counselling. Over the years, I’ve been a bit involved in discussions about communal forms of mourning, as well as celebration, which can help in some cases, especially folks like me with a bent for ritual, but clearly not everyone’s cuppa. Debbie Rose is big on grief. Have you seen her extinction blogs? Anyway, good on you for putting this out there. I’d definitely like to talk more about all this.

About Owain Jones

I work at Bath Spa University as a Professor of Environmental Humanities, and I am Director of the University's Environmental Humanities Research Centre
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