Greta Thunberg was depressed and refusing to eat years before climate strike, father reveals

‘It was the ultimate nightmare for a parent,’ says Svante Thunberg

Olivia Petter
Monday 30 December 2019 11:13 GMT
Greta Thunberg was depressed and refusing to eat years before climate strike, father reveals

Greta Thunberg’s father has opened up about his daughter’s struggles with depression “three or four years” before she began her school strike against climate change.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, which Greta guest-edited, Svante Thunberg revealed his daughter “fell ill”.

“She stopped talking, she stopped eating,” Svante said, adding that his daughter “was basically home for a year”.

“She didn’t eat for three months,” he added, “which is of course the ultimate nightmare for a parent.”

To help Greta, Svante explained he and his wife, opera singer Malena Ernman, “took time off” from work.

“My wife cancelled all of her work,” he said, “and I stayed at home. We sat down and we got help from doctors, we just took a very, very long time to spend a lot of time together and work it out.”

Svante went on to discuss how his daughter became passionate about the climate crisis and confessed that although he and Malena were active human rights advocates, neither of them “had a clue” about environmentalism.

“Greta thought we were huge hypocrites,” he recalled, explaining how Greta, who is 16, questioned how he could advocate for human rights without also fighting against climate change.

The couple then began to make changes to their lifestyles so they were more environmentally friendly; Malena stopped flying on planes while Svante went vegan.

“I did all these things, I knew they were the right thing to do ... but I didn’t do it to save the climate, I did it to save my child,” he said, explaining that Greta “got more and more energy” from seeing her parents take action.

Svante added that he was “not supportive” of Greta skipping school for the climate strike.

“We thought it was a bad idea,” he explained. “The idea of your daughter putting herself at the front line of such a huge question like climate change. You wouldn’t want that as a parent.”

Now, looking back, Svante said he can see how much Greta has “changed” and become “very happy” as a result of her activism.

“She dances around, she laughs a lot, we have a lot of fun – and she’s in a very good place,” he said, adding that Greta deals with criticism “incredibly well”.

“Quite frankly, I don’t know how she does it but she laughs most of the time,” he said. “She finds it hilarious.”

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