Portrayals of PTSD in Adolescent Fantasy Fiction
Keywords:Post-traumatic stress disorder, fantasy, empathy, Theory of Mind, stigma reduction
Approximately 16% of children and adolescents who experience trauma will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Mounting evidence shows PTSD to have both acute and chronic effects on childhood development making treatment essential. Unfortunately, fear of stigma continues to prevent Canadians from reaching out for mental health care. The negative attitudes that lead to stigma develop in childhood and adolescence. Yet media available to children often reinforces negative stereotypes of mental illness. New evidence in the social sciences has shown that fiction can create empathy and prosocial behavior in the reader, thereby reducing stigma. Several recent fantasy-fiction series have chosen to portray PTSD. By encouraging Theory of Mind, these narratives have created ideal conditions for readers to feel empathy towards people living with PTSD, thus reducing stigma in the real world.
Faculty Mentor: Roxanne Harde