Saturday 7 May 2016

Peter & Lisa: A Mental Illness Children's Story

This post includes 
affiliate links. Please read my 

Authors: Charles Katz, Linda Baron Katz.
Illustrator:  Mitchi Suico

Page Publishing, Inc. 2014

Reviewed copy: PDF version emailed by L. Katz in exchange  for an honest review. Paperback version also available.

Peter and Lisa: A Mental Illness Children's Story
is about two adults who are affected by mental illness. In the introduction page mental illness is described in  a simple, child-friendly way. 
The clear and matter of fact language is easy for young children to grasp and the introduction importantly points out that  'Children will not only love the story but will learn from a topic that should be taught by everyone.'  

See below for more from Missus B....

Mental illness is a complex and emotive subject and there's a limited amount of resources out there for children, or adults who want to explore the topic with them. In 'Peter & Lisa,' children can learn about mental health in simple terms. The characters are Peter, Lisa, Trudy, Nancy (a seven year old) and Pit, Peter's pet dog.

The story describes the friendship between Peter and Lisa (Nancy's mother) and how they experience mental illness in unique ways. 'Both Peter and Lisa had moods that caused their minds to become sick.' We learn that, 'Lisa had difficulty sleeping and could not think straight.' Sometimes Lisa could see or hear things which weren't real. 

We read that when Peter is feeling sad, he doesn't eat much or leave the house to walk his beloved dog Pit. Pit feels sad and tries to wake Peter with licking and barking. 
Trudy comes to visit Peter and feels concerned. He decides he needs to get some help and go to the hospital.
The story explains how professional help, talking, medication, rest and peer support are some of the ways in which people can get well again. We learn that, after a stay in hospital, and doing some of these things, 'Lisa began to wake up as if she'd had a bad dream,'  and started to feel better. Lisa's 'little by little' journey to wellness involved thinking about things she could do to make herself feel better, as well as monthly visits with her doctor. Peter, also felt better when he talked with his doctor about his own 'deep, deep sadness.' 

More from Missus B: 
If you're looking for a support tool in discussing mental illness, 'Peter & Lisa' describes depression, bi-polar disorder and recovery in simple terms. While the illustrations are somewhat flat and lacking in texture, the emotions of the characters are well conveyed. The dialogue is uncomplicated and clear, bringing opportunities for discussion, depending on the audience or interest levels of the children. Some readers may be happy to experience and digest the story as it is, while others may want to reflect on the characters, their feelings and the 'unknown' part of the story.

As a professional who has worked to support families, I like that this book has lots of potential for exploring, thinking and talking. Children who live with mental illness can have opportunities to talk about and understand more about their own experience of it. They may consider the characters and relate to them in a personal way. 

At the same time, this story is an important share for children who may not be experiencing mental illness. It describes  interactions,  feelings and situations which many children can relate to.There are important messages about reaching out to friends, sharing feelings with others, taking the time to look after yourself and making plans to help each other.

'Peter & Lisa'  puts the subject of mental illness on the table for discussion and helps children to identify with it.  As adults, we are likely to think about the complexities of mental illness. In contrast, children often need only simple explanations. 'Peter & Lisa'  does just that- it strips the subject down to straight forward  feelings, thoughts and actions, making it easier for  young children to grasp. 

While the images are somewhat insipid, the story is a valuable share and and ideal as part of the SPHE/PSHE curriculum. 
Book available at these affiliate links:

You may also be interested in these other books I've reviewed:
The Colour Thief: A family's Story of Depression
Meh: A Story About Depression (a wordless picture book about childhood depression)

Related information  is a great website & gives lots of information in a child-friendly format. Check out these KidsHealth pages: DepressionBipolar DisorderGoing to a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Therapist and Why am I so sad? 

If you're a parent,  'Talking about mental illness with your child' may be helpful for you. This article comes from the website COPMI: Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (great website)

Be part of Ireland's Green Ribbon Campaign  to get people talking openly about mental health problems. Also, visit Walk in My Shoes

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