In the novel Lisa, Bright and Dark the author paints a picture of how society deals with mental illness. On one side you have people who want to help others, and are determined to do what it takes. The other side represents the ignorant people in society, that don't want to believe people are actually mentally ill. The atmosphere in the novel at times is very emotional, harsh, and understanding. They are demonstrated through Lisa's actions and the response by her family, and friends. Lisa's parents represent the ignorant part of society. They are totally oblivious as to what is happening to their daughter. The sympathetic part of today's world is represented with Lisa's friends, who try to help her out in whatever way possible.

Lisa Shilling is the protagonist in the novel Lisa, Bright and Dark. If you were to take a look at her on her "good days" then she would look like a typical sixteen year old; happy, friendly, and one who dresses nicely. She also had her bad days in which she would dress all in black and not say a word to anyone. At the beginning of the novel Lisa sits down with her parents and tries to tell them she desperately needs help. Something is not right with her, and she can not handle it alone. "Daddy, I think I'm going crazy." (page 9) At this time her parents were unaware of the fact she was ill, and just put it aside, not thinking much of it.
"What is it you think you need?"
"Well" said Lisa, calmer, quieter but not hopeful, "maybe a psychiatrist or
someone. I mean, it wouldn't have to be an expensive one. Just someone
who would understand and know what to do."
"You've seen too many movies," Mr. Shilling said.
"Who else has a psychiatrist, Lisa, in your class?" her mother wanted
to know. (page 10)
One of the first incidents that should have had both Lisa's parents worried was when she was under a teachers desk at school, poking a pin through her wrists, not saying a word. "There was Lisa, on her hands and knees, doubled over, busily poking a pin into her wrist-nearly, rhythmically, precisely, watching tiny drops of blood peep out of each hole she punched." (page 26) This was the way that Lisa tried to call out for help, and get peoples attention.
Adults, real ones, insist on thinking 'soft.' This process consists of looking
on the bright side that, in most cases, is the dark one, saying that thus and
so is only a phase. They feel there are some things from which "children"
should be shielded. Adults are in many ways simply chicken: by protecting
themselves, which means that no one ever gets to the truth. This is not a
good system. (page. 26)
However she did not succeed, and was driven to take more and more drastic measures.

Mary Nell Fickett is one of Lisa's good friends. She is also one of the main characters in the novel, along with Betsy Goodman, and Elizabeth Frazer. These three girls noticed Lisa's sudden change in clothing and behavior on certain days. The first occurrence that came about for them to really notice, was at a party Mary Nell and Lisa went to. There, Lisa was acting normal and just being herself.
However, she suddenly turned against everyone, and stormed out of the room for no particular reason.
"Stop it!" she shouted, startling everyone. "Just stop it!" Then she turned and
ran out of the room. Mary Nell and Brian followed, neither knowing what
it was they were supposed to stop.
"What is it honey?" Brian asked Lisa. After a minute, Lisa answered in a bitter voice. "You're no better than the rest of them," she said, cutting her words off
so that she sounded almost English. "Why can't you all stop it, and leave me
be?" Then Mary Nell took Brian and led him back to the study, explaining
that maybe it was "that time" or something and that Lisa was probably just a
little depressed. Which may have seemed true, for about ten minutes later Lisa
was back with the crowd, dancing and laughing and her usual self. And that was that. I thought it sounded pretty weird, but I