Understanding Mental Illness: My Journey with Effie Trinket

Promotional image of Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games.
Ignorance is bliss—but only for those who are ignorant.

I’m a strongly opinionated person. When I believe something is right, it’s hard for me to consider the other side. Only when I am confronted by hard evidence will I believe a new truth, especially when it’s a fundamental truth, something that’s part of my moral standpoint. At times, accepting the truth takes me a long time, just like it does with Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games series.

In the first film, we meet Effie as she is traipsing down a dirt road in District 12, wearing a pink dress and high heels. Her lips are pursed in distaste and her eyes coated in mascara. When she conducts the reaping, she does her job with a cheery flair, despite her obvious discomfort at her surroundings. It’s apparent she doesn’t care anything about this district or its citizens and regrets being assigned there. She’s apathetic to their poverty and the brutality of the games, and she doesn’t seem to clue in to the hardships the tributes are going to endure.

The changes I go through help me to understand others.

Effie’s behaviour reminds me of my younger self. Her attitude towards the tributes reminds me of my attitude towards mental illness. I saw commercials that warned of their seriousness, but I ignored them. I thought things like depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress were all imaginary. I believed it was the sufferer’s own fault for not being strong enough to conquer too much sadness or shifting moods.

Effie’s opinion changes after she gets to know Katniss and Peeta. Training them is all duty, but after the two win the games, she begins to care for them. They’ve won, after all, therefore she can become emotionally attached. In Catching Fire, when President Snow announces that the new tributes are to be reaped from the existing victors, she realizes this isn’t a game anymore.

As she reaches for the paper with Katniss’s name on it—the single piece of parchment lying at the bottom of the jar mocking the “randomness” of the selection—tears glisten in her eyes. Effie realizes that the Games aren’t fair or right. This time, she is even more committed to her team (to Effie, this means colouring her hair gold and buying trinkets for the others). This time, she’s emotionally invested in her tributes. This time, she hopes and prays that they will win.

Ignorance is bliss—but only for those who are ignorant.

Though it may seem like a shallow difference in her behaviour, what’s being triggered inside Effie is real change. By Mockingjay, she joins the rebels and wholeheartedly involves herself in the fight for Katniss and Peeta. She becomes a completely different woman.

In the past five years, I’ve struggled with my own mental illness. I was confronted by the reality of depression and I felt weak, hopeless, and beyond repair. I came to realize the emotions I saw people deal with in the commercials were real. I can’t say I enjoyed having my eyes opened in that manner, but now I understand. Now I can relate to friends who have dealt or are dealing with depression. I’ve been able to encourage them. I’ve been able to ask for help when I’m struggling myself. Like Effie, my view of a subject was completely changed and it didn’t happen overnight, but gradually.

Effie was the comedic relief at first. She was snooty and cared only about fashion and gossip. Though her love for clothes and quick wit didn’t change, her passions did. She gained compassion for others and that enriched her life.

I’m glad I’m not that ignorant person anymore when it comes to mental illness, because I think if I had stayed that way, I could have hurt many people with my misinformed opinion. Sometimes change happens quickly, other times it happens gradually, but if the changes I go through help me to understand others and become a more loving person, they are worth it.

Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell

Guest Writer at Area of Effect
Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning writer of speculative fiction and an editor for Geeks Under Grace. When not typing away at her novels, she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging, Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea.
Victoria Grace Howell