One of my favorite movies of all time is Girl, Interrupted. It’s based on a best-selling memoir by American author Susanna Kaysen who was checked into an upscale mental institution at 18 years old after attempting suicide by overdosing on pills.
Susanna, played by Winona Ryder, was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and institutionalized for 18 months, despite being promised only a short stay when she checked in.
This film handles many aspects of mental illness. From self-denial to family denial to community denial- it touches on a lot of the stigma surrounding the current mental health landscape, despite it being based in the 60’s.
It casts Angelina Jolie as Lisa and Brittany Murphy as Daisy. They befriend Susanna in the mental hospital and become very close friends despite having varying diagnosis. They end up forming such a strong bond- despite their confined circumstances- that it eventually overcomes Susanna’s need for freedom. When her boyfriend shows up to bail her out, she insists on staying to complete her treatments and stay with her friends. She builds a new life there, where “normal” is a more flexible term.
Eventually, Lisa seduces Susanna with friendship and attention, and they make a break for it. They escape the psych ward and find Daisy, who was recently released despite visible mental health symptoms. Daisy hangs herself on her birthday and is found by the girls while they’re staying there. Susanna has the sobering realization that she was romanticizing suicide. She decides to return to the ward for treatment, but Lisa runs away.
Lisa is later found and brought back by police in a terrible mental shape, visibly shaken and mute. This inspires Susanna to get better and stay her course.
She is eventually released and given the diagnosis of “recovered borderline,” not that she’s sure what that means and she’s still not convinced that she was ever mentally ill. She still reminisces about her friends there, her learned experiences and her future trajectory.
This movie echoes my experience with mental health as well. I was brought to get mental health help by my family. I couldn’t see that I had a chronic mental health problem, but I saw trauma that inspired me to stay my course and get help.
Once I was diagnosed, I followed through with every course of action that was recommended. Along the way, I made friends, new life experiences and developed a whole new empathy that could have never blossomed without this experience.
I hope that anyone battling with their minds learns to outsource the stress to professionals (therapists, doctors, etc.) and doesn’t wait until they are at a peak to seek the help they need. You can always take the advice, or not take the pills but you can’t take back a suicide or a manic tirade. The world would be such a healthier place if we could create the ecosystem for preventative mental health care. Girl, Interrupted encompasses these stories in a very real and visceral way. I highly recommend watching it to anyone who has or knows someone struggling with mental health. It may change your life for the better.
This post was created with the help of Grammarly.