After reading Susanna Kaysen’s novel, Girl, Interrupted, the only response that seems plausible is one of shock or perhaps anger. While it can be effectively argued that Susanna did have some sort of mental disturbance which caused her a great deal of pain and anguish in her late adolescence, it is almost unfathomable that the mental health profession, in the late 1960's could simply lock someone in a psychiatric ward, pump them full of medication and never fully explain to them what is wrong with them. And what is perhaps even more enraging is the fact that Susanna spent two years of her life in a mental institution based on the finding of a man who had met with her for the brief period of fifteen minutes.
The situations, in which Susanna Kaysen found herself, were in a sense unjust. For instance, today if someone is diagnosed with an illness, such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, the patient is prescribed medication. The patient is free to ask questions concerning the purpose of the drug and the possible side effects. Susanna was never given that luxury. If she refused to take her meds or, worse asked what they were for, she was seen as agitated or a troublemaker. In many instances it seems as if Susanna’s basic human rights were usurped all in the name of “treatment.” In addition to being given little or no information concerning her meds, Susanna was also given little information regarding her diagnosis and course of treatment. It seems that if Susanna had been able to understand her disease, she may have been more cooperative in her treatment.
Girl, Interrupted shows us why the stereotypes of the “mental institution” are still alive and well today. Mental patients in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were not given much consideration in their treatment. Because of this mental health practice has, and will continue to have, a stigma attached to it. This stigma tells us that, no matter what your condition—be it depressed or schizophrenic—you’re crazy. And as many educated individuals have come to know this is not always the case.