*Photo credit: Paste Magazine
On December 27, 2016, American actress, writer and producer Carrie Fisher died at the age of 60. Fisher is best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars film series; however, she is also remembered for the decades she spent advocating for mental health treatment and against stigma.
Fisher was very open about her personal experiences and how mental illness was weaved into her family history. Her father abandoned the family when she was 2 years old, and some of his behaviors led Fisher to suspect that he had undiagnosed bipolar illness. Her mother was frequently absent and Fisher began abusing drugs as a teenager. She was told she had bipolar illness at the age of 24, but she didn’t accept the diagnosis until she was 28.
Unlike other people who struggled with addiction and mental illness during that time, Fisher spoke out publicly and honestly about her struggles. In 1987, she wrote the semiautobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge. The dark yet hilarious story conveyed to readers that God only gives people what they can handle. Fisher went on to write additional books about persevering through struggles including Wishful Drinking, Delusions of Grandma, Shockaholic and Surrender the Pink.
Fisher’s willingness to speak candidly about her diagnosis has broken down the stigma associated with mental health issues and inspired others who are struggling.
“I am mentally ill. I can say that. I am not ashamed of that. I survived that, I’m still surviving it, but bring it on.” -Carrie Fisher
Understanding the seriousness of mental illnesses and helping those struggling seek professional help is the best way to fight the stigma. If you know a child or young adult struggling with depression or experiencing thoughts of self-harm, contact our psychiatric hospitals at 1-866-KVC-CARES (582-2273).