Climate Change and Health Resource Center

Climate Change and Health Resource Center


Healio Interview

Disclosures: Champlin and J.D. Wortzel report receiving profits from the book.
November 29, 2021
2 min read

Psychiatry committee publishes picture book to help children cope with climate anxiety


Healio Interview

Disclosures: Champlin and J.D. Wortzel report receiving profits from the book.
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The Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry Climate Committee published a children’s book focused on helping caregivers navigate children’s anxiety about the changing climate.

Coco’s Fire: Changing Climate Anxiety into Climate Action was cowritten by Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry Climate Committee (GAP) members Elizabeth Haase, MD, Janet Lewis, MD, Beth Mark, MD, MES, and Joshua R. Wortzel, MD, MPhil, along with Jeremy D. Wortzel, MPhil, an MD and MPH candidate at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, and Lena K. Champlin, a doctoral candidate in Environmental Science at Drexel University and the Academy of Natural Sciences, who also provided the illustrations.

Book cover of Coco's Fire
Book cover of Coco's Fire. Source: Lena K. Champlin. 

Together, the co-authors developed the picture book “in a way that was grounded in age-appropriate, psychiatrically appropriate terminology that was most beneficial and helpful for young people to process this issue,” J.D. Wortzel told Healio Primary Care.

The book introduces climate change and advocacy to children aged 7 to 10 years, who typically lack resources regarding climate change, the authors said.

Lena K. Champlin

The plot revolves around Coco the squirrel and her dad as they pursue ways to stop climate change. After hearing “The Climate Talk,” a six-point, evidence-based framework, from her dad, Coco turns her climate anxiety into action and joins others in her community who are working to stop climate change. Her anxiety is depicted as a small flame, a “worry fire,” within her that is slowly tamed as Coco works through the steps that make up The Climate Talk, according to the authors. Suggested actions include deep breathing, writing letters to local officials, joining community groups and learning more about the environment.

The Climate Talk was developed after Wortzel and Champlin conducted a literature review of current children’s books to evaluate techniques used to address complex topics with young people. The six-point framework provides guidance on when and how to discuss climate anxiety with children and may be useful for parents, teachers and physicians, according to J.D. Wortzel and Champlin. They said that next steps for this work may involve an activity book and additional research to ascertain the book’s effectiveness. Similar books for other age groups are also a consideration.

Jeremy D. Wortzel

“As a young person entering these climate conversations, we’ve had a number of discussions with people regarding whether to start families in a world that is condemned. I think it really plagues young adults just as much as young children,” J.D. Wortzel said.

The book is available on kindle and in paperback on Amazon; 65% of the proceeds will be donated to GAP to support research on climate change and mental health.