Rhode Island Veteran Writes Book to Help Kids Overcome Anxiety
Navy veteran and aspiring mental health counselor Greg Charpentier ‘18SCE published his first book in November, 2019. Ricky’s Big Week is a children’s book designed to help kids learn how to deal with an emotion that’s become much more common in recent years – anxiety. Inspired by his own experience adjusting to civilian life after serving abroad, the Cranston, Rhode Island father of four says the book is just the first step in his quest to help people of all ages improve mental health.
Charpentier attended Providence College’s School of Continuing Education and graduated with honors, with a degree in Social Science, in 2018. He’s now in grad school to become a mental health counselor. His educational journey and career aspirations, as well as his debut as an author, were all motivated by his experience as a veteran, and as a dad.
After serving in the Navy during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, Charpentier returned home to a life that he says was too different from the one he’d become accustomed to – so much so, that he suffered with near-crippling anxiety.
“My anxiety came not so much from what happened during my deployment, but from the fact that my job in the military required me to be responsible for other people’s lives. It was a huge responsibility that came with a lot of stress, and when I came home and didn’t have that anymore, it was hard to adjust,” Charpentier says.
“I talked to a therapist and what I found the most helpful was psycho-education, which teaches you about how your brain reacts to stressors. The problem we have is that even when the stressor is removed, our brains continue to think about it as though it’s still there. That feeling of being on high alert is supposed to be an acute response, but instead it can become chronic and the avoidance of those thoughts begins to close in on you,” he says.
In Ricky’s Big Week, Charpentier teaches children about this chronic reaction, and about the coping strategies that helped him to overcome it, through the art of storytelling.
“What I had was a panic disorder, and so I know first-hand that panic attacks are incredibly scary and hard. As a dad, I wanted to help my kids and other kids with that, and give them the coping mechanisms that I found so helpful,” Charpentier says. “To have those skills instilled as a child is so helpful for their future.”
Charpentier says the biggest lesson presented in the book is that the reaction of panic and anxiety is normal, and that it’s how you respond to it that matters.
“It’s the same thing with panic and anxiety,” Charpentier says. “It’s your body’s reaction to stressors and once you understand that you can feel a little bit better about it and it become a whole lot easier to manage. So the book is all about teaching kids that it’s OK to be afraid, but if you face it that feeling goes away, especially over time. The worry about it is worse than the actual event,” he says.
Ricky’s Big Week is the first in what Charpentier says will be an entire series focused on different aspects of children’s mental health. The series will help kids to explore mental health issues through the context of familiar situations, helping them to understand what’s normal and to build coping strategies along the way. The next book, yet to be titled, is focused on depression and using play as a behavioral intervention to treat it.