The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 just opened and we at the Legion of Leia cannot get enough of it. The characters of the series endure countless amounts of torture and excruciating heartbreak. The article below provides a psychological breakdown of the two leading characters of the series, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, both representing District 12 at the 74th Hunger Games.
Katniss is only 11 when her father is killed in a mine explosion. His death leads to Katniss’ mother undergoing severe depression. Attempting to survive and provide for her family, Katniss is forced to search for food through dumpster diving and hunting. Realizing that Katniss and her little sister, Prim, are starving, Peeta, the baker’s son, burns some bread on purpose to be able to give it to them.
When Prim is selected for the Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to go in her place and in doing so, saves her life. During the competition both Katniss and Peeta are representing their home district. Both at different times become severely injured or poisoned and nearly die. Both witness much loss and devastation around them as the young representatives of the other districts savagely fight to survive.
When the two are able to win the Hunger Games, they were forced to re-enter the competition the following year, facing the previous winners. At the same time rebellions against the Capitol begin to break out. Peeta is severely tortured and brainwashed to believe that Katniss is the enemy and that he needs to kill her.
Katniss in the meantime, experiences immeasurable losses. Attempting to protect the people she loves, she becomes the “Mockingjay,” the symbol of the rebellion, only to watch her home district and most of the people she loves and cares for destroyed by the Capitol. The Capitol later bombs the hospital where Prim was volunteering. Katniss is overwhelmed by grief only to be nearly killed by the brainwashed Peeta.
Without giving away the spoilers from the books or the latest Hunger Games film, here are some possibilities of what survivors of similar experiences to those of Katniss and Peeta might psychologically go through.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Given the amount of trauma that both Katniss and Peeta experienced in their young lives, it would not be surprising if one or both of them develops PTSD. PTSD is a mental health disorder, which occurs after individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, which is then followed by at least 1 month of the following symptoms:
- Re-experiencing the traumatic event – having nightmares, flashbacks, or intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event
- Hypervigilance – being in a state of high alert
- Changes in mood or personality – feeling extremely irritable or angry
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma – avoiding talking about the trauma or being in places which remind the individual of the traumatic events, or using substances to “numb” the painful feelings
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
In addition to PTSD, some individuals who experience the kinds of losses and torture as Katniss and Peeta, might develop Major Depressive Disorder. MDD might include some or all of the following symptoms:
- Sad mood
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities (anhedonia)
- Changes in appetite or sleep
- Changes in concentration or energy levels
- Physical pain
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Both PTSD and MDD are more likely when trauma survivors blame themselves for the traumatic experience, which both Peeta and Katniss do, putting them at higher risk of developing PTSD or MDD.
On the other hand, both Katniss and Peeta also possess resiliency factors, which may help reduce the detrimental effects of the trauma on their mental health. Specifically, they are both fighting for an important cause, one that they believe in. Current research suggests that when people are able to develop meaning from their traumatic experience, they are less likely to develop a mental health disorder. This means that if Katniss and Peeta are able to connect with their sense of purpose they might be less likely to struggle with the disorders mentioned above.
To see what actually happens to these characters, check out Mockingjay 2 in your local theaters.
Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full time geek. She uses Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management and Sharp Memorial Hospital. Dr. Scarlet also teaches at Alliant International University, San Diego. Her book, Superhero Therapy, is expected to be released in July 2016 with Little, Brown Book Group.
If you would like to learn more about Superhero Therapy, please feel free to contact Dr. Janina Scarlet via Twitter @shadowquill, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shadow.Scarletl, or via her website at www.superhero-therapy.com