Harry Potter


"Experts hail Harry as wizard role model"

by Vicky Collins ("News," May 9, 2001)

YOUNG Harry Potter fans may not be able to borrow their hero's invisibility cloak to escape from their troubles, but J K Rowling's best-selling books can still help troubled children, according to psychiatrists in the United States.

The boy wizard provides an excellent role model for such children, they said, adding to the debate and controversy which the books have created in the US. Their positive outlook was contrasted by conservative religious parents who sought to have the books banned: they felt they were satanic and would encourage children to revere witchcraft.

However, the orphaned hero of Rowling's four children's novels not only survived an abusive childhood in the home of hateful relatives, but came out with hope and the ability to love intact. "He is adventuresome, tolerant of a lot of negativism directed his way, yet is not aggressive, arrogant, or clinically depressed," said Dr Leah Dickstein, a psychiatrist and former elementary school teacher.

Such has been the phenomenon of the books in the US that Dr Dickstein was speaking at a symposium in New Orleans dedicated to Harry Potter, one of the sessions that was part of the American Psychiatric Association's four-day annual meeting.

Panel members examined the popularity of the wizardly books and found that not only are they great fun, but they can also help young readers and psychiatrists.

Dr Elissa Benedek, a forensic and child psychiatrist, said talking about the books helped establish a rapport with children and it gave her an idea of what they think and feel. She had treated "some pretty bad kids" but none identified with the character of Harry's arch-enemy Voldemort, a dark wizard.

Around 100 psychiatrists, psychiatry students, and their spouses attended the symposium. Most agreed the books were useful tools to help troubled children, and almost everyone in the audience said they had read at least one of the Potter books. Three-quarters had read all four.

However, Dr Earle Biassey, said he had worked with some children who had become obsessed with Harry Potter and taken the tales as proof that they did not have to obey adults.