National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Whats Wrong With Nick?

Carrie Lyn Torney

Reviewed by members of NAMI's Literature Committee

What's Wrong with Nick? by Carrie Lyn Torney. Available from Friend of Nick's, PO Box 972, Claremont, NH, 03743. 16pp $3.95

This attractively illustrated book meets an important need. Be means of a story about two boys, one of whom has schizophrenia, it explains mental illness to young children.

Written by a counselor in Claremont, New Hampshire, it has the mother explain that Nick often doesn't leave the house to play because he sometimes hears voices.

She tells the younger boy, Sean, that Nick takes medication to help the voices go away or make them easier to tolerate. In response to his question, "How can I help Nick?" she replies, "Be his friend?"

"Dr. Thomas Zelnick, Chief of Psychiatry at the Catherine McAuley Health System in Ann Arbor, Michigan, took the book home to read to his two young daughters. He did this because he had found it difficult to explain to them what he,as a psychiatrist, does, and what patients he treats. He found the book very helpful for this purpose. In his own words:

"I recently had the opportunity to read "What's Wrong with Nick?" to my two children, ages 4 and 6. Judging from their reaction, the book was helpful to them in understanding schizophrenia. It held their attention throughout, and I believe they would have been interested in hearing more development of the characters and issues involved. This surprised me, given their young ages.

"My oldest daughter immediately requested that she be allowed to take the book for 'sharing day' with her first grade class. The book was apparently well received by the class as well. The teacher took the opportunity to participate by sharing that she herself had diabetes, and that she also knew people with schizophrenia.

"When I told them that one of my young patients in the hospital had schizophrenia, my youngest daughter seemed moved. She wanted to do something for him. She drew a 'birthday card' for me to give to him. She has since asked if I needed any more cards for patients.

"The concise and simple format of the book has advantages. I would like to see future books similarly written for young children which elaborate further on issues confronting patients with serious mental disorders."

This book fills a unique spot. It will be welcomed by parents, teachers, and others who are faced with the challenge of teaching young children about serious mental illness.