• Biography

Early Life

Susanna Kaysen was born on November 28, 1948 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of two Harvard-educated parents, both of whom were psychiatrists. Her father, Dr. George Kaysen, was a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and her mother, Dr. Ruth Kaysen, was a psychoanalyst. Kaysen was raised in a privileged and intellectual environment, and was exposed to a variety of cultural and intellectual influences from a young age.


Kaysen attended the prestigious Cambridge School of Weston, where she was an excellent student. She was accepted to Harvard University, but chose to attend Radcliffe College instead. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1969 with a degree in English and American Literature. After college, Kaysen moved to New York City and worked as a freelance writer for several years.

Mental Health Struggles

In 1967, at the age of 18, Kaysen was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She was admitted to McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, where she stayed for two years. During her time at McLean, Kaysen wrote extensively about her experiences and her struggles with mental illness. In 1993, she published her memoir, Girl, Interrupted, which detailed her time at McLean and her struggles with mental illness. The book was a critical and commercial success, and was adapted into a feature film in 1999.

Later Life

After her release from McLean, Kaysen returned to New York City and continued to write. She published several books, including Asa, As I Knew Him (1987), Far Afield (1995), and The Camera My Mother Gave Me (2001). She also wrote for various publications, including The New York Times and The New Yorker. In addition to her writing, Kaysen was an active advocate for mental health awareness and treatment. She was a founding member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness and served on the board of the National Mental Health Association.

Kaysen passed away on May 8, 2020 at the age of 71. She is remembered for her courage and resilience in the face of mental illness, and for her contributions to the field of mental health.

Date modified: Apr 8, 2023
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