Campbell Saunders was a sixteen year old boy from the city of Kapuskasing, Ontario in Canada. He was a sophomore in high school, attending Degrassi Community School in Toronto, Ontario. He was a sweet, gentle, and kind hearted boy that always assumed the best in people no matter what the cause. Campbell was very athletic, and had been playing hockey since the age of six. He was considered a hockey prodigy in the province of Ontario, and had been picked by sports network officials to be an immediate draft for the NHL as soon as he graduated high school. He always tried to be himself, even though his team mates tried to press him with the typical high school jock persona, which made things difficult for him.
Campbell had been experiencing severe homesickness after having to leave his home in Kapuskasing to move in with a billet family in Toronto in order to play for the Ice Hounds. This homesickness had led to depressive feelings, causing him to often “drown his sorrows in ice cream” (Yorke, 2012) self-harm by provoking his lactose intolerance. His homesickness also led to problems with his schoolwork. His grades dropped, causing him to need a tutor, and even after he had been meeting with the tutor for a while; his grades did not improve much.
He was also experiencing issues with his junior hockey teammates. They oftentimes relied on him too much to carry the team, considering his prodigy status. Also, jealousy arose due to the likelihood that Campbell was on the fast track to the NHL, causing his teammates to bully and harass him. Once he could not take this anymore, he began to cut himself with his hockey skate to relieve the stress. He also willingly jumped off of a stairwell in a successful attempt to break his arm beyond repair where he could not play hockey anymore. He was recommended by a doctor to sit out of hockey for six to eight weeks.
He was also in a relationship with a fourteen year old girl in the grade below him named Maya. He began to use her and rely on her as his main source of happiness. When she or his friends would fail him, he would act out in violent and shocking fits of rage towards other people and himself. He would often break down crying, push and kick furniture and nearby objects, or get into physical and verbal fights. During a lot of his breakdowns he would oftentimes make cryptic remarks like “I feel like my head isn’t screwed on right” (Yorke, 2012), and “I’m tired. I just wish I could go to sleep and never wake up” (Barckert, 2012).
A physical fight that he had with his girlfriend’s friend, Zig, eventually led to the trigger of his suicide when he told Campbell, “If you even cared about her at all, you’d get out of her life, forever” (Barckert, 2012). Somewhere around twenty hours after Zig’s words triggered his breakdown, he was found dead in the school greenhouse by senior Eli Goldsworthy. It was implied that he slit his wrists vertically with his hockey skate, just as he had previously cut his hand.
According to the DSM-IV, first off, Campbell would be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. He did a good job of hiding this factor from his friends, but when he was alone; he showed a highly depressed mood and would oftentimes cry. As the episode timeline drew closer to his suicide, he was more open about his depressed feelings towards others, finally telling his hockey captain that he did not want to play anymore. He was also in tears for the majority of his last physical episode. It was also implied that he was experiencing severe insomnia, due to the fact that he would often complain about being tired and worn out.
While this may be an idiosyncrasy of the actor, during many scenes, Campbell can be seen displaying psychomotor agitation. In two classroom scenes in “Waterfalls (Part 1 and 2)”, he is clearly seen tapping his pencil rapidly against his book while being faced with answering a teacher’s question, and then being confronted face to face by his girlfriend. Also, in every scene where he is shown having some kind of emotional breakdown, he is always locking his jaw and biting his lip.
Campbell also dealt with feelings of worthlessness and excessive guilt. He often felt like he was not good enough for his teammates, his friends, and his family. Most of these feelings were brought on by things that his hockey teammates said to him, such as blaming one mistake he made for their loss, and referring to his obvious depression as selfishness. He also felt inadequate, because his girlfriend would often push the boundaries of their relationship. She would try to get him to go further than he was prepared for, and it caused him great anxiety. She once broke up with him because she felt underappreciated due to his lack of interest in pursuing her sexually at that moment. Once she broke up with him, she ended up kissing the boy that eventually would trigger his suicide, causing him immense distress and fear that Zig was constantly trying to take Maya from him.
More than anything, the two clearest examples of his major depressive disorder are his lack of interest in activities of pleasure, and recurrent suicidal ideation. Campbell had been playing hockey since the age of six. Then, at the age of sixteen, he lost interest in the sport almost overnight. He had a true gift that most teenage boys would die for, and he despised it. The distance between himself and his actual family made it hard for him to enjoy playing hockey, considering the fact that it kept them so far apart. Also, the pressure that his team placed on him made it difficult for him to enjoy playing as well, because he always felt like he had to live up to their standards. Hockey aside, Campbell also was on and off with his romantic interest in his girlfriend, making her feel like she could not figure out what he wanted from her. She tried to do sexual things, dress up, and write him a song in order to get his attention, but her attempts would often fail. He also suffered from suicidal ideations. His numerous accounts of self-harm made it obvious that he did not fear pain, and maybe not even death, but he did not have a specific plan. He also displayed his despair through his cryptic and sometimes frightening language, putting his death wishes out on display, especially in his last appearing episode.
Campbell may have also been dealing with a slight anxiety disorder as well. His panic attacks, and fits of anxiety induced rage lasted from his first episode of Degrassi until his last. A lot of times, the way he reacted to things would seem outlandish, considering the situation at hand. The littlest thing would set him off, such as accidentally exposing his underwear to a crowd of people in the cafeteria, to getting mobbed by sports media officials after a hockey game. He also went to extreme measures to avoid these stressful situations. He hurt himself numerous times to get out of playing hockey, and he ultimately took his own life to avoid ever having to deal with the stress that life brought him on the day to day basis.
In this case, I would most likely use the cognitive behavioral method as a crisis counselor. I would try to meet with Campbell at least once a week for a few weeks to talk through his problems, and hopefully get him to a better place in life. I would start by using functional analysis to help him find out where his negative thoughts are coming from, and how they are contributing to the maladaptive behaviors that he is displaying. During this procedure, I would definitely bring up hockey, and try to work with him to describe his feelings while playing, practicing, and simply wearing the jacket that claims his team around school. I would ultimately let him make his own decision, but I would most likely suggest that it would be best for his health if he took some time off of hockey for a while. He should use this time to think over his feelings and decide if it is worth all of the trouble.
I would also take him through a process that would focus on his behavior that is causing a lot of stress on his life, such as his acts of rage. I would try to get him to think of new ways that would help him channel his rage through positive thoughts while he is in an anxiety provoking situation. During this time of therapy, I would do some roleplaying exercises that would allow him to practice having the intense conversations that would trigger his anxiety such as: conversations about hockey, conversations with his girlfriend, and conversations with his nemesis. There would also be a need for a relaxation technique to be developed at this time that would help him wind down at night to possibly aid his insomnia, and simply allow him to get a good night’s rest in order to combat his anxiety.
Unfortunately, on the show, the principal did not catch word of his behavior until the day before his suicide. A meeting with the school’s guidance counselor was made for the following week, but unfortunately, he did not live to see that meeting. Suicide is never anyone else’s fault. None of his friends are at fault for what happened, but if only someone had mentioned to a teacher or another adult that he had been feeling down and stressed out, he may have met with the counselor sooner. This one unnoticed fault may or may not have caused him his life.