Melissa (The importance of community and kindness in distressing times)

Written by Melissa Huntsman

There are no profanities strong enough to express the devastation of this bushfire season. No words strong enough to explain the frustration of climate models becoming reality when social media opinions are being touted as facts. No news or opinion article articulate enough to express disappointment that the science, settled decades ago, is still being questioned and ignored. Not enough tears can be shed for the scale of degradation that has occurred. 

As I go back to work in my office in Sydney I am filled with dread. My agency manages private land conservation. I know we have many passionate landholders who’s land and years worth of environmental management, will have been impacted by the fires this season. 

There is a cruel twist to being passionate about biodiversity and working / studying in this field. Conservationists are often exposed to the worst of the environmental impacts. Conservationists and environmental professions intimately understand the reality and consequences of the impacts others may not be aware of or choose to ignore. The risk of burn-out and mental health impacts is real. We need to look after ourselves so that we have some resilience left and the capacity to continue our work. 

Personally, I have taken the most comfort from a conversations with like minded friends. I have had friends reach out to me and check that I’m doing okay. For those friends, I am forever grateful. These conversations lift me up and give me strength. It helps me recognise I am not alone in my heart ache and feelings of despair. I know my feelings are valid. This is the importance of community that understands. Communities like Lonely Conservationists. We know we are not alone and that we can lean on in times of need. We are stronger together.

I know the impacts to the LC community will be varied; from property loss, to emotional distress, to health impacts and the impacts on the flora and fauna you have poured your heart into studying. We see you and we are here to support you. Please reach out. 

I am trying to take steps to take to be kind to myself and manage my mental health. They’re small things but it’s a list and I love a good list, it helps me feel more in control. My current list of steps to be kind to myself is: 

  • Taking time out from the rolling media coverage and constant scrolling of social media
  • Avoiding engagement in conversations with people who are not willing to listen to experts and science
  • Messaging friends to offer support 
  • Allowing myself to cry 
  • Making an appointment with a psychologist 
  • Finding ways to take positive action and brainstorming future action opportunities

Please continue this conversation. Whether it’s here or with your other support networks. How are you being kind to yourself?

For more of Melissa, visit @melhuntsman on Instagram

Jessie Panazzolo

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Hi! I am the founder of Lonely Conservationists and have been lonely in conservation projects spanning seven equatorial countries. My brain is 99% random animal facts 🦕

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