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PTSD in Degrassi: The Next Generation

Trauma finds victims across all walks of life and Degrassi: The Next Generation spares no expense on making the detriment of post-traumatic stress disorder on its respective characters known. Trauma of course remains highly subjective, albeit the creators of Degrassi do outline an ample and varied array of unique cases. Post-traumatic stress disorder on the other hand plays a considerably uniform and objective hand in terms of diagnosis and symptoms. The Degrassi producers provide a reasonable, diverse and accurate illustration of PTSD against the backdrop of a world bombarded with psychological stimuli. 

PTSD Can Manifest Quietly

The Mayo Clinic affirms the existence of four types of PTSD symptoms: intrusive memories of the trauma, avoidance of subject matter pertaining to trauma, negative changes in thinking and mood or changes in physical and emotional reactions. According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, PTSD affects 7-8% of the United States population. Traumas affecting women generally fall under the umbrella of sexual abuse. For men the pattern assumes the role of accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster or witness to death or injury. As a male, having experienced blunt force trauma to the head, sometimes the PTSD manifests in subtle ways. Personally, the physical pain trumped over the mental manifestations which emerged as a sort of fixation on familiar occurrences in media. Degrassi’s Drew Torres reflected one of the aforementioned fixations.

Physical Trauma Hurts Mentally

Whilst Torres’ blunt force injury and its management comparatively overshadowed the beforehand experience, the fixations emerged as a common theme. His trauma inflicted by gang violence is shown in the episode “Idioteque”. In order to cope he begins the practice of a risky mixed martial arts regiment. He also sustained flashbacks, physical pain, and mood distortions. First hand, symptoms arose through intrusive memories, physical pain, a desire to defend oneself and a constant negative affect. Another male in the show suffering from PTSD is Eli Goldsworthy. His trauma comes in the form as a witness to a death, particularly his former girlfriend. The show contends that she fled an argument with Eli on a bike. She died after a fatal collision with a car. He copes with the trauma by hoarding keepsakes from the former girlfriend and experiences irregular panic attacks.

Even Being a Witness to an Event can Cause PTSD

Another PTSD account due to witnessing a death in Degrassi is Emma Nelson. In “Time Stands Still (2),” Sean Cameron saves Emma by tackling an armed Rick Murray, another student. This event ends with Rick incidentally shooting himself after Sean tackles him. Though Sean himself seems slightly shaken by the event he copes by immersing himself in a new environment with his parents away from Degrassi. Conversely Emma, having to remain in the same environment must tolerate all four of the symptom types. Furthermore, she does not cope well and resultantly endures a social and academic decline. Just like Emma, Fiona Coyne undergoes a similar descent after an assault by her former boyfriend. The symptoms she endures include all four symptom types along with alcoholism for a crutch.

PTSD can Have Tremendous Consequences

Four other female characters encounter PTSD with the cause being sexual abuse or sexual assault. Paige Michalchuk bares with the fallout of rape at the tender age of fifteen. Her most prominent symptom is intrusive thoughts. She later lashes out emotionally and physically by intentionally plowing into her assaulters car with her ex-boyfriend’s car. Another rape assailant strikes the character Darcy Edwards in the season 7 episode “Standing in the Dark.” She contracts chlamydia from the ordeal and begins sessions with the school counselor. She mainly stomachs intrusive memories and negative changes in mood.

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Character Jane Vaughn’s trauma seems brief, however the PTSD spans years and years. She was molested by her biological father as a child. Every time she sees him she experiences harsh flashbacks as is shown in the episode “Jane Says(1).” Her main symptom of course being intrusive memories. The final overt display of PTSD is expressed by Zoë Rivas. In season 13 she is sexually assaulted by characters Luke Baker and Neil Martin at a party. In the episode “Sparks Will Fly(1),” her symptoms manifest through in intrusive memories and emotional reactions in response to her assault.

5 Out of 5 Stars For Degrassi and PTSD

Degrassi finds no fault in exposing the truth. While the characters are fictional, their issues are quite relatable. PTSD certainly assumes many forms and these fictional characters live through with it as would any other person in reality. Degrassi’s characters reflect the multitudes of traumas that may affect any given person. As realistic as the depictions may seem, in real life they abound with solutions. Therapy and talking remain the proper instruments of choice in coping with PTSD and the show certainly makes this known. Overall the PTSD coverage receives 5 out of 5 stars.

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