KANSAS CITY, Mo -- A local therapist turned children's author says the stigma of mental health issues in the African American community is putting children at risk, so he 's enlisted some superheroes to help explain it's OK.
“Growing up, if I was a fifth-grader or fourth-grader and I saw this book in the library, I would sit down, I would read it and I would feel empowered by it because I see myself," author Vladimir Sainte said.
As a young African American boy, Sainte didn’t see books he could completely relate to. So as an adult and child therapist, he decided to fill that void by writing "Just Like a Hero."
In the book, Will is an African American boy struggling with self-confidence and bullying, not knowing what to do with feeling of anger and hurt.
There's a lot of Sainte in Will.
“I think it was very therapeutic for me to write that book. I think I was channeling a lot of my internal forms of hurt and pain and shame in a sense," he said.
Will is also made up of parts of children Sainte has worked with over the years. Like a fourth-grader who was being bullied because of the tone of his skin.
“Because he was very dark," Sainte said. "He was being bullied because of it to the point where he thought because his father was a plumber he could take sandpaper and brush the skin color off.”
Sainte’s second book, "It Will be Okay," is loosely based on his 5-year-old daughter, who has been his guinea pig throughout the writing process.
It's about a girl named Alma and her hope shield, which came in handy during a recent swimming lesson with his daughter who is afraid or the water.
“I went up to her and said, 'I understand that you are feeling scared. I wonder what would Alma do in this moment?'"
"My daughter said, 'You know what? She would tell her fear monster to go away, so I am going to tell this water that I am not scared,'" Sainte told FOX4. "It’s just moments and small little movements like that that can shape someone’s future.”
A simple but powerful message written in the prologue of both books that sums up what is inside.
"Everyone has the potential for greatness -- it just takes a little love, nurturing support and seeing yourself as a hero," he said.
If you are interested in getting a copy of either book, you can find more info here.