A new picture book written by a Manx mental health professional is reassuring children that it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious at times.

‘Arlen the Anxious Alpaca’ follows the story of a shy, young alpaca who experiences feelings of terror when humans come to visit his farm. The brightly-coloured book, which delves into the physical and psychological symptoms of the uncomfortable emotion in a way that primary school-aged children can understand, is supporting a Manx charity with every sale.

The book, which aims to help children understand anxiety, on display.jpgThe book, which aims to help children understand anxiety, on display.jpg

It first started as a personal project by Laura Matthews, of Peel, who wanted to help her young nephew as he was feeling anxious during lockdown. The 25-year-old decided to take her written work further and got in touch with illustrator Kieran Brown to come up with some complementary images.

Arlen the Anxious Alpaca was then launched on Christmas Eve and has since sold more than 350 copies. With every book purchased, £1 goes towards local mental health charitable cause, Isle Listen. The book has also caught the attention of those across, including British publications and an NHS clinical psychologist who also runs therapy sessions for young people at her husband’s alpaca experience business called Lower Bush Alpacas. 

Laura said: ‘I didn’t think anything would come of it [the storybook], but when I saw the illustrations by Kieran Brown I thought, maybe I will publish it. ‘It’s good to have a resource to help explain what anxiety is to kids and in particular to children in the mental health service.’ She added: ‘My nephew got the first book and he loves it!’

‘I think there are a lot of books that talk about worries and feeling sad, but we almost tip toe around what anxiety is. Children would be able to explain their feelings of anxiety better when they know more about it – that way they can get better help.’ Arlen the Anxious Alpaca provides a number of helpful tips on how to manage anxiety, such as breathing techniques, naming five things you can hear and five things you can smell and more.

Laura’s decision to pick an alpaca as the star of the book was down to the animal being popularly used in mental health services due to their calm nature and soft, textured fleece. Also included in the book are tips for parents on how to identify anxiety in their children and what they can do to support them. The last page in the book signposts parents to helpful websites and encourages them to contact their GP if they have any concerns.

The mental health nurse, who also provided free care packs for the elderly during the first lockdown with mental health professional Alyssa Isaac, has further plans to use the book for public child wellbeing sessions. Arlen the Anxious Alpaca comes at a time where some children may be finding themselves experiencing excessive nervousness or other symptoms of anxiety due to the ongoing pandemic.

You can find out more about Arlen the Anxious Alpaca by searching @anxiousarlen on Facebook or Instagram and also www.anxiousarlen.com

You can grab a copy of the book from EVF stores across the island and online.

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