Counselling doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the environment like the transport and energy sectors.

Nevertheless, the Association of Counsellors (NZAC) say the mental health profession is not exempt from doing their bit in addressing climate change, as we are all in this together.

“We live in an era where the human relationship with nature, how we perceive and act towards the natural world, has never been under such intense scrutiny,” NZAC President, Christine Macfarlane, says.

“Every one of us, in our working lives, must fit in here somewhere, somehow.”

Her comments follow the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Working Group II report, Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, earlier this month.

She draws particular attention to chapter 7 of the report, which highlights the expected adverse impacts on wellbeing and will further threaten mental health.

“Children and adolescents, particularly girls, as well as people with existing mental, physical, and medical challenges and elderly people, are particularly at risk.”

Macfarlane says one of the key pathways toward climate resilience in the health sector, identified by the report, is universal access to mental health care. However, as the report is also at pains to point out, mental health support is “particularly inadequate”.

“While we commend the Government for mental health initiatives such as the new Awhi Mai Awhi Atu counselling in schools, they must seriously consider extending counselling in schools to others outside the pilot project.

“Investing additional funding in mental health prevention services is crucial to early intervention and supporting communities to build resilience. This will pay a range of dividends at a later stage.”

The te taiao (environment) is inexorably linked to mental health, NZAC Te Ahi Kaa Gay Puketapu-Andrews says, and can be a powerful tool for encouraging a healthy lifestyle, even just by breathing in the fresh air and going for a walk.

Therefore, our response to the ever-present challenge of climate change should also take into consideration the mauri of all things, she says.

“If the mauri of any part of our environment is out of balance, then we are out of balance. Everything is interconnected.

“So, I implore the Government to walk the walk of their first wellbeing budget, and make serious progress on their commitment to putting people’s wellbeing and the environment at the heart of its policies.”