Netflix provides its spin on bipolar disorder

Jessica Buttell

 Spinning Out, the Netflix Original Series focuses on figure skater Kat Baker and her life with bipolar disorder. 

The producers work hard to capture an accurate portrayal of the challenges that athletes with mental illness face.

Skating is Baker’s life, until she falls out of a jump and cracks her head open during a regional competition. 

Baker’s passion for skating that once brought feelings of happiness and excitement is replaced with terror and trauma. 

Unable to sleep without reliving her fall each night and Baker’s hopes of ever skating again disappear as she struggles to do the most basic of skills. 

Baker believes her skating career is over until she is offered the opportunity to skate pairs with Justin Davis. 

No other options available, Baker has to relearn how to skate all over again so she can have the option to continue her passion.

While Baker trains in hopes of going to the Olympics, she struggles to balance her personal life and her mental health. 

Baker is not the only character in the show with bipolar disorder. 

Baker inherits her disorder from her mother Carol, who is notorious for being noncompliant with her own medication. Carol serves as the series antagonist, verbally abusing her daughters and working them to the bone for them to become the skaters that she could never be. 

Bipolar disorder involves extreme mood swings including mania (emotional highs) and depression (emotional lows). 

Many people who suffer from this lifelong condition can have their energy, sleep, behavior, judgment and decision-making affected. 

The audience watches as Baker self-harms, biting her arm until the skin bleeds in order to deal with stress. 

As the competition season heats up, Baker stops taking her medication, seeking the energy and confidence that comes with the emotional highs in the disorder. 

But Baker also has to deal with the repercussions of her thoughtless actions and work through her depressive state.

Spinning Out plays a crucial role in communicating to its audience that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. 

Carol and Baker both try to hide their disorder from the public, as they are under the impression that mental health issues can ruin a person’s reputation. 

That simply is not true.

Baker goes through a period of rebirth, where she rejects the lifestyle Carol imposed on her by keeping Baker’s disorder as a secret. 

It takes extreme courage from Baker but also shows that she had nothing to fear in the first place. 

Baker’s friends accept her for who she is and make sure that she is back in a healthy state with her medication. 

By not keeping her disorder secret any longer, 

Baker finally gets the support she needs.