Young people's voices

Mental health in Orange Is The New Black

By August 22, 2018 May 21st, 2019 No Comments

A facility full of criminals. Each person has their own story. This Netflix show explores the backstory on how certain characters ended up in prison. This blog however is going to focus on two specific characters; Suzanne Warren (Crazy Eyes) played by Uzo Aduba and Lorna Morello-Muccio (Lorna La Loca) played by Yael Stone. Both of their stories show us how people treat Mental Illnesses within society.

Suzanne Warren, also referred to as Crazy Eyes, has clear signs of Mental Illness. Although no conformation on what these diagnoses are, there is strong evidence suggesting that Suzanne suffers from delusions, hallucinations, emotional deregulation, poor boundaries, aggressive outbursts, difficulty conforming to society and more. Some theories suggest she suffers from schizophrenia or bipolar, but again, none of the are confirmed. All we do know is that she is on medication which helps calm her, and she has had visits to the psych ward. Only certain peers could calm her down such as Vee, Tasha Jefferson (Taystee), Poussey Washington and Cindy Hayes (Black Cindy).

Inmates and guards use Suzanne’s illnesses as a joke, and constantly push her to do things that will make her have one of her outbursts. Everyone knows who she is by her nickname, not her actual name nor prison name. Comments are made by her fellow inmates, for example when Ouija says ‘I had a cousin like this. Its all fun and loopy until she stabs you in the thigh with your 8th grade karate trophy’. Season 5 showed us how if you are ‘different’ to the crowd, then you’re an outcast. This is shown when they put clown make-up on her, tie her to the side of the bed, and taking her off her medication telling her she doesn’t need it. In the latest season, we get shown what goes on in Suzanne’s brain and what her life is like in her view point.  We also see how she is separated from her peers for being different and gets put in ‘Florida’ block.

Moving onto Lorna Morello-Muccio. She is in the same situation as Suzanne that we don’t officially know of any diagnoses. We know she has had episodes of explosive frenzies, violent outbursts, irrational decision making, and delusions. This can suggest she lives with borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD. Lorna switches her moods, lives in denial of facts when it comes to Christopher and has a constant fear of abandonment. Her and Nicky Nichols have a strong attachment, and Nicky knows how to deal with Lorna. Nicky keeps Lorna safe, and makes sure no harm comes to her and, in the last two seasons, her baby.

Lorna faces’ different challenges to Suzanne, as she was still in a sane mind of knowing what was going on around her. Her moods towards Nicky changed a lot as well. One minute she would want her and next she would want to stay away. Not all inmates were as caring as Nicky though. Lorna faced more direct insults, with people calling her names (such as Lorna La Loca), and people being insensitive of what is going on in her life. When she announced she was pregnant, inmates did not believe her until she showed the tests. No one understood Lorna, they just believed that she liked telling lies and making up stuff to keep her happy.

These aren’t the only two characters who present mental illness though. Throughout the show we see characters present issues such as suicidal thoughts/attempts and suicide shown from Soso and Trish, drug abuse shown by many inmates and in Maria & Daya’s case; post-partum depression. There are also many other illnesses shown during the series, many of which are ignored.

This series shows us what it can be like living in the world with Mental Health and how the rest of the world treat individuals living with mental illness, and what happens when you ignore and pretend that things are okay, when its far from it.

–  Chelsea

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