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A 2D Animation for PTSD Patients 
on Substance Use Disorder (SUD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after a major traumatic event. Research shows that PTSD patients are prone to using substances, in the hope that they will help them better cope with intrusive memories and severe emotional distress. However, substance abuse may prolong the symptoms of PTSD and lead to Substance Use Disorder (SUD).

The objective of this project is to create a 2D animation to educate PTSD patients and help them make informed decisions about substance use. Through visual metaphors and narration, this animation follows a PTSD patient’s substance recovery journey with non-triggering and non-stigmatizing visual graphics.


This animation will be used to educate PTSD patients at The Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) during clinical visits. In addition, this animation will be incorporated into an online interactive patient education tool on Public Health Agency of Canada. 


Individuals living with PTSD in Canada


Dr. Ahmed Hassan

Clinician Scientist and Addiction Psychiatrist,



Prof. Shelley Wall (primary)

Prof. Marc Dryer



2D animation suitable for dissemination 


July 2021

-August 2022


Adobe After Effects

Adobe Animate

Adobe Illustrator


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Process work 

Research & Proposal

I started this project by conducting a detailed literature review  to understand the mechanism behind PTSD and SUD, and a media audit to explore the visualizations on mental health and substance use for patients.I created a proposal to show my committee members how I intended to approach my animation. 


Based on the preliminary research while focusing on the key content the content advisor wants to address, a script is developed for the animation. The script underwent several rounds of revision, including informal feedback from a focus group to avoid any stigmatization and triggers around PTSD and substance use.  

Story Concept 

The main challenge in this project is to present the content in a non-stigmatizing and non-triggering manner. Therefore, I created a story that follows a character named Emma, who lives with PTSD and uses alcohol to escape from her triggers. Below are the character design for Emma. 

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To help the audience relate to the story, I created a visual metaphor, the mind buddy, to represent the idea of the mind. 

Emma's mind buddy has a little band-aid on its head, to represent past trauma. 

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The glow around the mind buddy represent different states it is in. 

The dark glow appears when Emma is triggered; the colourful glow represents the influence of substance use; the purple glow represent she has developed PTSD-SUD. 

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Character Design

Several versions of the character design was created. 

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After revising the script, rough storyboards were created using Procreate. 

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An animatic was created using After Effects. 

Color Test

I created some rough color tests to test out the color palette. I selected a desaturated color palette suitable for the subject matter.



For the background production, 3D models were first created in Maya as perspective references. Then, 2D renderings were created in Procreate to match the style of the characters.


Rigging & Sample Shots 

A character rig was created using Joysticks n' Sliders. 

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