A storybook guide to mental disorders

2008-01-30 00:00

Author Laura James addresses this book to “all those bravely battling a psychological disorder and to the dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to help them”. It is heartily endorsed by one of the latter, consultant psychiatrist Dr Gareth Vincent.

James’s aim is to help demystify and destigmatise mental disorder in an accessible and appealing way, using as examples beloved characters from children’s literature, such as Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, inhabitants of and visitors to Oz and Neverland, and lots of other favourite storybook people, including Willy Wonka, Cinderella and Goldilocks, Peter Rabbit and Pollyanna.

On the face of it, not a bad idea. We’re given a painless, often humorous outline of all sorts of conditions, discovering en route that the Queen of Hearts, the Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan are all exemplars of varieties of narcissistic disorder.

Bouncy Tigger suffers from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), while fellow-sufferer Pooh Bear has the inattentive variety of AD/HD.

The sorrowful Eeyore has dysthymic disorder (dysphoria) and Piglet has generalised annxiety disorder.

Borderline personality disorder (Tinker-Bell), schizoid personality disorder (The Tin Woodman) and psychopathy (Bluebeard, the Big Bad Wolf) are among the other conditions surveyed.

At the end of each chapter there is a brief discussion of the methods of treatment and an exercise to help you recognise the various tendencies, in others, as well as in yourself.

The book developed out of James’s experience of emotional disorders in her own family, and her struggle to be supportive and to overcome her fear of mental illness. Those who have had similar experiences may welcome her light, friendly, even cosy approach to the subject, and may be glad of the appended list of resources, mainly literature, and of support groups, some of which have international connections and websites.

There are a few reservations, though. Readers who value the old friends of their childhood may not be happy to see them treated as “cases”. Also, it’s possible that the book oversimplifies. Finally, the book punts “normality” as the ideal, suggesting that most of us aren’t “normal”, but can be tagged as in some way “disordered” and in need of help. In other words, some readers may come away from it convinced that they, or perhaps a family member, has a mental condition, made more, not less, sinister by being dressed in fairytale.

So, while the book is potentially as helpful as James intends, it does need to be read thoughtfully and, perhaps, in conjunction with more serious texts.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.