His+Bright+Light...By+Danielle+Steel++Book+Review+1999+ -...

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Am J Psychiatry 156:6, June 1999 961 Book Forum CONFRONTING MENTAL ILLNESS His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina, by Danielle Steel. New York, Delacorte Press, 1998, 296 pp., $25.00. Nurturance, compassion, and love reflect a mother’s in- tense feelings for her first-born son. Danielle Steel conveys each of these and much more in His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina. Ms. Steel portrays them with a very skilled writer’s eye for nuance, development, and tragedy. Her heart- wrenching effort to tell us how mental health professionals could have served Nick Traina better is extremely coura- geous and completely open. We need to listen ever so care- fully to Nick’s story. Nick was an exceptionally bright child with much love for his family. He could be stern, funny, and insightful, some- times all at once. As he matured, his world expanded and his interests developed. He became a talented writer, composer, and singer. His peer group assumed great importance. Girls entered his life. Nick started to experience problems in school. His emotions were much more erratic. He became very self-analytical. He entered the world of mental illness, one of 3.5 to 4.5 million teenagers who are seriously emo- tionally disturbed. As Nick’s behavior became more extreme—bouts of de- pression punctuated by periods of high emotion—his mother and his family became gravely concerned for his well-being. Family confidants were consulted; his mother took Nick to specialists. He went to a residential program. Much money was spent. Nothing seemed to work. The family was desperate for a treatment or drug that would help Nick: “It was a time of terrifying frustration. I am a capable competent person, with ample funds at my dis- posal. If I couldn’t make things happen for Nick, I shudder to think at what happens to people who are too shy or too frightened to speak up, people who don’t know their way around” (p. 126). Different diagnoses were offered; a depression drug was prescribed. Nick’s symptoms were mitigated only slightly. A new crisis occurred; Nick was placed into hospital inpatient care, first with other teenagers, then with other adults. He went to live with another family for two years. Specialists were consulted. Nick’s medication was switched to lithium after he was given a new diagnosis of manic depression with attention deficit disorder. His life seemed to be miraculously changed; Nick took lithium regularly for 2 years. He became an ac- complished singer. There were occasional inpatient stays. Nick’s independence led him to refuse to take his medica- tion. Using a combination of drugs, including heroin, he at- tempted suicide once, twice, then three times. Legal interven- tion was used to make sure he received care. Nick’s rock band went on tour. His fourth suicide attempt was success- ful, his final tragedy. We can, should, must do better. We must improve training
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This note was uploaded on 11/29/2010 for the course PSYCH SY BEH 102 taught by Professor Raymondw.novaco during the Spring '10 term at UC Irvine.

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His+Bright+Light...By+Danielle+Steel++Book+Review+1999+ -...

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