While she may be known by most as pop culture icon, Princess Leia, actress Carrie Fisher was a powerhouse advocate for mental health and addiction. All through her career, Fisher was candid about her struggles with bipolar disorder, illicit drug use, as well as prescription drug abuse.
It was the 80’s and not many people were very open about addiction or mental health issues. But she owned it. She laughed in the face of her oppressing addiction. She accepted it for what it was and when it kept pushing her down, she still said, “Bring it on!.”
Fisher wrote books and she used to her words not only to express her own frustration with society norms but to challenge others to ask the same questions. Why are we afraid of this? Why does this stigma even exist?
”One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. In my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls. … At times, being bipolar can be an all-consuming challenge, requiring a lot of stamina and even more courage, so if you’re living with this illness and functioning at all, it’s something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”
Her great contributions as a mental health advocate did not go unnoticed. Just this year she was honored with the Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism by Harvard College for “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”
As we mourn the loss of a great woman, actress, and writer we also acknowledge her endless contributions to the mental health community and to people everywhere struggling with the disease of addiction. Her honesty about her experiences was (and continue to be) so refreshing in a society that forces us to quiet our struggles with substance abuse and mental health disorders. The progress that she made in her own life and in the mental health community will never be forgotten.
Carrie Fisher is survived by her mother, Debbie Reynolds, her daughter, Billie Lourd, and her dog, Gary.