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Harry Potter the ‘new Prozac’

Herald Sun, Australia
Apr. 16, 2004 • Saturday April 17, 2004

Harry Potter is the “new Prozac”, helping beat teen depression and suicide, an academic says.

A paper on the popular book character, Harry Potter: The New Prozac, says Harry Potter helps counsel young readers about depression and anxiety. The paper, by Deakin University’s Anna Beth McCormack, will be presented at Flinders University’s Harry Potter Conference, which started yesterday.

It highlights how the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, makes understanding depression simple for kids through the characters, the dementors and boggarts.

The dementors represent depression and anxiety and the boggarts change shape to become whatever you fear most, be it a bully or a spider.

The dementors are overcome by thinking good thoughts.

“As a way of overcoming dementors, Harry conjures up a patronus, which is a manifestation of strength in oneself,” Ms McCormack said.

“For Harry’s friend Ron, his boggarts are spiders and he imagines them without any legs so he can laugh and get rid of his fear.

“The characters provide a symbolic way of coping with fears.”

Conference organiser Amanda Muller said the impacts of the paper were far-reaching.

“Australia has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the Western world, particularly for boys,” she said.

“Part of that problem is depression. The books make understanding depression simple for kids.”

Other topics addressed at the conference include the religious backlash to witchcraft in the series.

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