Girl Interuppted

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Girl Interrupted: Susanna Kaysen’s Mental Illness
Katie Casebeer
Margaret Gibson
Amancio Lopes
Molly Rather
Boston College
PY230

The film, Girl, Interrupted, is based on the life and memoir of Susanna Kaysen. During the late 1960’s Susanna Kaysen, attempted suicide and checked herself into a mental health hospital for two years. This movie adaptation weaves together the intricacies of Susanna’s personal life, the pressures of a changing society and the unexpected friendships she formed while committed to the hospital. In the film, directed by James Mangold, Susana is played by Winnona Ryder. The movie is made up of small vignettes of Susanna’s life. Susana is from a well-off family, but considers herself an outsider and typically associates herself with those of the counterculture of the 1960’s. As a senior in high school, Susana aspires to be a writer, though this career path is not deemed acceptable by either her parents or her school. She is also involved in an affair with the husband of a family friend. The film begins with Susanna checking herself into a local mental hospital called Claymore after she attempted suicide by downing a bottle of aspirin and chasing it with alcohol. While at the hospital, Susana meets a myriad of women suffering from various mental disorders. In particular, she connects with one woman, Lisa (as portrayed by Angelina Jolie). Lisa is a diagnosed sociopath and influences Susanna to resist many aspects of their doctor’s therapy. The women in the hospital break into their psychiatrist’s office and read their files, which describe their disorders and conditions. This is when Susanna discovers that she is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. After running away from the hospital with Lisa and discovering one of their friends, Daisy (played by the late Brittney Murphy), committed suicide, Susanna returns to the hospital. The film is spoken from the perspective of Susanna and while she constantly questions the way in which her society works she I also consumed by her own mental state and of the way in which mental health hospitals play a role in the recovery process. Susanna Kaysen, who is eighteen at the start of the movie, voluntarily checks herself into a psychiatric hospital with the suggestion of a family-friend therapist. She is checked in upon her suicide attempt that she denies that she purposely tried to commit suicide. As the movie progresses, viewers fail to see her claim as true as she is seen having many suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Her associations with suicide are a major warning sign and potential indication that she may be suffering from a mental disorder. She also has many personality characteristics that lead professionals within the hospital to believe that she has a personality disorder. These qualities consist of depressed, angry and reckless thoughts and behaviors towards herself and others.

Upon her stay at the psychiatric hospital, Susanna is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Taking her behaviors and symptoms she exhibits throughout the movie into consideration, it is clear that this is the most accurate diagnosis and she does In fact suffer from this disorder. One of the main symptoms she exhibits is consistent disturbances and changes in her personality. Her relationships throughout the movie are very unstable and she never seems to create any consistent bonds or friendships. She has a poor relationship with her parents, especially her mother. She makes friends with patients and staff while in the hospital but then always seems so make decisions that put her friendships in jeopardy.

Another one of Susanna’s symptoms is her impulsiveness. She frequently makes decisions without putting in much thought and therefor puts herself in many dangerous situations. Her impulsiveness leads to her very reckless behavior. In the movie, Susanna and Lisa decide to escape from the hospital and runaway. They get hitchhike and smoke marijuana...
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