In some ways, understanding someone with an evident disability--blindness, cerebral palsy, missing limbs--is easy to understand. I'm not saying that someone without those disabilities can ever truly understand living with such a disability. But I can imagine what it means not to be able to see, or being unable to walk, or having a hand that I can't use.
It's the invisible disabilities that are more difficult to understand. Someone who is not bipolar, or who does not suffer from depression, may not be as quick to recognize how powerful and debilitating these disabilities can be. Charles Katz and Linda Baron Katz, who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder, have written a children's book to help build understanding of these disorders. Peter & Lisa: A Mental Illness Children's Story tells the story of Peter and Lisa, friends who, through their mutual friend Trudy, get help for their illnesses and find love in each other.
The simple text and illustrations of Peter & Lisa probably won't win the Katzes any awards. But the Katzes certainly accomplish the goal of the story--to help "children to understand that with the right kind of help mental illness can be treated and people can live normal, healthy, happy lives." To me the most important message is that mental illness is not something that can be treated with will power or pushed through with hard work. Peter and Lisa had community, in their friend Trudy and in each other, and they were willing to get professional help, including in-patient treatment and medication. Hopefully Peter & Lisa will be a tool to remove stigmas from mental illness and encourage those who suffer from mental illnesses, as well as their families and communities, to take steps for treatment and recovery.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!