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OPINION: Area author's new book helps kids cope with mental health challenges

Greenville Herald-Banner - 12/20/2018

Dec. 20--Royse City resident Erin Kincaid recently released her self-published children's book, "Rock Me Right," written to help kids cope with mental health issues.

She has already held book reading events in Royse City, and she is also expecting to make stops in the Greenville area as well.

Kincaid currently works as a counselor at First United Methodist Church in Royse City, but has also worked with other nonprofits in the area. She has also written guest columns for D Magazine on a variety of issues.

Kincaid said she first got the inspiration for her children's book while attending a home schooling event at the Dallas Zoo, where she learned about how the tortoise reacts to being flipped on its back.

"The zookeeper was telling us that when it gets flipped over, it can rock itself right. Right then and there, my counselor brain starting rolling," Kincaid said. "If animals are designed to have coping skills, how much more can a human have?"

Kincaid, who works as a mental health counselor, said she wrote a short blog post about her experience, which got a lot of positive attention.

While attending a writer's convention, Kincaid said one of her peers told her how the blog post about the tortoise had an effect on them.

"I thought, 'Wow. There's something to this," she said.

Kincaid began calling zoos in Dallas, Oklahoma and San Diego to research the behaviors of more than 300 different animals to learn about their coping skills.

Through her research, Kincaid created characters for her book that each had its own difficulties as well as its own strategy for dealing with those problems.

And with these strategies, Kincaid envisioned a book that could help children understand how to better cope with their mental health and understand how to deal with different emotions.

Her book is filled with characters like Amy the Armadillo who needs to learn that she can't hide away forever from her problems and needs to find a way to engage her challenges.

Through the characters presented in her book, Kincaid said adults can open up the conversation about mental health.

"It teaches children the process of mental health counseling and all the different emotions that a human might feel when they have a mental health issue," she said.

Kincaid said she had not always thought about a children's book being a useful tool for mental health counseling.

During her career as a counselor, however, she learned that it's not always easy to explain to children the complexities of dealing with one's emotions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 13 to 20 percent of children living in the U.S. deal with a mental health issue every year, while an estimated $247 billion is spent to treat children's mental health issues and disorders.

As mental health counseling for children and adults are not one in the same, Kincaid said the way that the process of counseling is explained to kids can have a large impact on their willingness to participate in therapy.

"As adults, we often use abstract language like, 'How are you feeling today?' Children look at you and say 'I don't know.' Children are prone to attach guilt and negative feelings around counseling and think that they've made a poor choice," she said.

By not focusing on the semantics and definitions behind words like depression, anger and anxiety, Kincaid said counselors, students and teachers alike can use her book to discuss different emotional states.

"This allows for a conversation to happen. What story are you trying to tell? What words are you trying to put together to describe how you are feeling?" she said.

Modern Woodmen, a financial services firm in Royse City, has paid to have 100 copies of Kincaid's new book donated to the kindergarten and first grade classrooms at the Royse City Independent School District.

Last week, Kincaid made a special visit to Anita Scott Elementary School to read her book to a group of students.

Kincaid said Yvette Woltman, the teacher of the students that she read to, is a neighbor, who through her experience teaching young students, helped Kincaid polish the writing in her book.

In addition to Royse City, Kincaid said she has spoken to organizers of the Boys and Girls Club in Greenville to present her book to the students in the program.

She has also been communicating to The Wind, The Willow bookstore in downtown Greenville.

"I wrote this book to be a precursor for mental health treatment for children so that we can help stop this nonsense going around from the pre teens to teen age level," Kincaid said.

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(c)2018 The Herald Banner (Greenville, Texas)

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