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Name: Roby Ahricka T.

Subject: NURS 70B
Date: July 1, 2019
Title: Girl Interrupted


The movie, Girl, Interrupted, was about one woman’s journey though

an institution in 1960’s America. The main character is Susanna Kaysen, who

details her life after checking herself into an institution after attempting

suicide. The movie is about Suzanna and the relationships she makes while

living in the institution. She befriends a woman named Lisa, a sociopath, who

she turns to during the hardest parts of her stay. This movie relates to the

course work thus far by touching on the concerns of institutionalization, the

stigma that comes along with mental illnesses, and different mental disorders.


There are many different disorders mentioned and shown in this film;

among those are OCD, depression, schizophrenia, and pathological lying.

The two disorders that were most prevalent in the film are Suzanna’s

borderline personality disorder and Lisa’s sociopath personality (or antisocial

personality disorder). Borderline personality disorder, as stated in the DSM-IV

is “A pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image,

and affects, and marked impulsivity beginning by early adulthood and present

in a variety of contexts”. To be labeled as having this disorder, a person

needs to show at least five or more of the DSM criteria. Suzanna shows

impulsivity in her sexual behavior, recurrent suicidal behavior, feelings of

emptiness, identity disturbance and displays of temper. Something interesting

about BPD is that many people with borderline personality disorder don’t seek

out treatment… until the disorder starts to significantly interfere or otherwise

impact a person’s life. Suzanna’s “breaking point” is when she tries to commit

suicide but doesn’t believe that’s what she was doing.

Lisa is diagnosed as a sociopath, also known as antisocial personality

disorder which is a type of chronic mental illness in which a person's ways of

thinking, perceiving situations and relating to others are abnormal — and

destructive. To be diagnosed with this disorder one must show three or more

criteria from the DSM. Lisa shows many, such as; breaking the law, lying to

others, being aggressive, feeling no remorse after harming others, no regard

for safety, and impulsivity. Usually a disorder like this begins in childhood and

continues into adulthood. A characteristic of ASPD is a lack of empathy which

is why it is believed “Some people may have a genetic vulnerability to

developing antisocial personality disorder — and life situations may trigger its

actual development” (“Antisocial Personality Disorder, 2010).

Both of these characters show many characteristics that determine

what disorder they have. For example, Suzanna was institutionalized

because of her suicide attempt. She also interacts sexually with three men in

the film, one being a male nurse that works at the institution, her “boyfriend”

and a teacher she had. She seems lost as to who she is as a person, often

journaling about her life, and talking to a psychologist about who she is. In

addition, a few times in the film she displays her anger towards the hospital
staff. Lisa’s characteristics are shown the first time she is introduced. She is

shown being carried out of a police car and into the institution, resisting the

entire way in. Her impulsiveness is displayed several times. More than once,

she and a few of the other patients steal keys and sneak around the hospital.

At one point in the movie, Lisa badgers another girl to the point where that girl

commits suicide. Once Lisa learns this, all she does is laugh and state how

weak the girl was, revealing her lack of empathy.

The movie depicted people with mental disorders as needing to be

locked away but not hidden from sight. The stigma in this movie can best be

understood from the very few outside interactions the women had with others.

The best scene to understand the stigma of mental illness in that time period

was when the women went to the ice cream shop. To most people, they

looked like regular women out for fun, but at one point, a lady crossed

Suzanna, and the women began to act “crazy”. The lady got scared

assuming that they would hurt her and left. For the time period, this was an

accurate description of stigma. Even though the “patients’ rights movement”

was coming into play, people who didn’t understand mental disorders still

attached a strong and demeaning negative stigma to it. However, most of the

movie was based in the institution, where it didn’t seem like much stigma

resided. The women were treated as humanely as possible under the

circumstances they were in. For example, their room doors were not locked

at night, they were allowed to go outside without a nurse watching them, and

overall they given more freedom than one might expect.

Throughout the movie only two people were shown being released

from the institution; Daisy and Suzanna. From the number of patients
involved, the release of just these two, indicate favoritism towards keeping

mental patients institutionalized. Daisy was released because her father

bought an apartment for her to live in, while Suzanna was released after she

completed her treatment.

Being able to apply knowledge learned in this class was beneficial to

the understanding of the portrayals of abnormal psychology presented in the

film. In today’s world, many movies and books are shown depicting mental

illnesses in a very negative light. The coursework studied to this point aided

in the objective analysis of this film and provides a background for which other

stories on film and in print can be filtered. At the same time, reading books

and watching movies with mental illness topics like Girl, Interrupted, gives a

person a chance to witness the portrayal of these illnesses and then analyze

the information for themselves. As a psychiatric nursing student, being able

to analyse signs and symptoms of patients correctly is a critical skill. While

reading about disorders is helpful, being able to see what a disorder actually

looks like cements what we’ve read about. Popular media still seems to

portray mental disorders as if it’s a disease another person can catch. While

this is the case, people are slowly coming to understand that mental illnesses

are common, changing the perceptions of the mentally ill in movies.