A Wellington parent’s group took to Parliament’s lawn early last week with plush toys to show politicians their children are growing up worried about climate change.
Alicia Hall, the founder of Millions of Mothers, started a support group for the students behind the School Strike 4 Climate movement after concern over climate change and how it would affect their children.
"Children deserve to grow up without having eco or climate anxiety. It's not fair, especially when it's within our power as adults to make the changes necessary.” Ms Hall said.
She said the group’s aim was to turn around negative narratives about climate change and “share and show solutions that exist”.
A side-effect of climate change is what’s known as eco-anxiety or climate change-induced anxiety. It is characterised by a sense of isolation, hopelessness and grief.
While it is unclear how common eco-anxiety is, counsellor Christine Thomson said she had seen a rise in the past year. She said the anxiety is making people question their futures.
"Probably most people at some stage in the time I see them, would raise climate as an anxiety or an issue that they are worried about," she said.
But psychologist Paul Duignan said there was a bright side to the trend.
“The exciting thing now, is what some psychologists in America call ‘emergency mode’. When people get into emergency mode, they actually do act,” he said.
“So, if there's a house on fire, people go and do stuff."
Psychologist Emma Woodward also told TVNZ1's Breakfast in April that being anxious in the face of climate change is “actually quite a useful and appropriate response”.
"Climate change is, essentially, a catastrophic event that can impact not just ourselves and our families but the whole of humanity, so feeling anxious is totally appropriate,” she said.
"If we can harness some of those feelings, if we can manage our anxieties so we don’t become too overwhelmed and use it to make positive change from ourselves and the planet, then that's a good thing."