Spotlight on eating disorders: Degrassi explores another issue affecting teens in 2 episodes

Spotlight on eating disorders
Degrassi explores another issue affecting teens in two upcoming episodes

Already renowned for unabashedly exploring serious issues facing teens, the producers of Degrassi: The Next Generation are tackling eating disorders in two upcoming episodes.

The series will focus on 16-year-old Emma Nelson (played by Miriam McDonald) as she suffers with anorexia and bulimia. The episodes will air February 20th and 27th on CTV.

Details of the two-episode arc, entitled Our Lips Are Sealed, were announced on the eve of National Eating Disorder Awareness week (Feb. 5 to 11).

Degrassis executive producer, Linda Schuyler, said in a release that young peoples self-image is influenced by skinny teen stars and the pervasive message that thin is in.

It upsets me greatly to see that young people’s body images are so affected by the media, says Schuyler. The message of self-acceptance is so important, and Emma’s eating disorder brings that issue to the forefront.

In the past, Degrassi has explored drugs, religion, sexuality and other key issues.

In “Our Lips Are Sealed,” Emma desperately tries to lose weight while dealing with the separation of her parents and the stress of keeping her relationship with Peter (Jamie Johnston) a secret from her best friend Manny (Cassie Steele).

A family intervention is needed when Emmas under-eating, over-exercising and constant purging causes her to collapse.

The upcoming Degrassi: The Next Generation storyline illustrates how people don’t start out with the idea of getting an eating disorder, said Merryl Bear, director of the National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) in a CTV release.

These unhealthy patterns of behaviour around food, exercise and weight management begin as a way to help structure or manage stressful lives, but in the end, control the individual. As the actions of Emma indicate, vanities don’t drive these preoccupations, but attempts at self-management and emotional regulation do.

At the end of the second episode, the show will direct viewers to the NEDIC website.

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