Many remember Carrie Fisher as the iconic Princess Leia, from the Star Wars franchise, who was a fearless, and perhaps the greatest, leader to the Rebel Alliance that constantly fought to end tyranny. What several may not know is how Fisher also fought to end the stigma around mental illness.
Carrie Fisher struggled with Bipolar Disorder and depression, but did not open up about it until the 1990s after the release of her very popular book, "Postcards From The Edge." It took battling a drug addiction for her to realize that she had more than just an addiction. Instead of hiding behind the stigma that seems to disgustingly surround mental illness, Fisher used her resources as a platform to normalize mental illness through constant openness about her own. By doing this, she inspired millions to be open about their own struggles with mental illness, and do their part in normalizing them. People were no longer afraid to admit that they struggled with something like Bipolar Disorder and they found it easier to accept that this was a part of who they were. Fisher said, "I outlasted my problems. 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."
One of the biggest contributors to the stigma around mental illness is medication. So many believe that taking medication to help battle mental illness is a sign of weakness and means you are probably crazy, when in reality, medication is a perfectly normal alternative form of help for a mental illness. Medication was another thing Fisher was very open about, admitting that "Without medication I would not be able to function in this world. Medication has made me a good mother, a good friend, and a good daughter." By simply saying this, she once again made millions feel more comfortable with their conditions and helped them feel "normal" when others see them as abnormal. Medication helped Fisher lead a "normal" life, and she constantly encouraged everyone to do what they had to do to lead their own version of a normal life, "whatever that means."
So thank you, Carrie Fisher, for being so open about something so personal and inspiring millions to do the same. Thank you for dedicating such a large portion of your life to helping normalize mental illness. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, approximately 43.8 million people experience mental illness in a given year. Mental illness is nothing shy of serious, but it is not something to make someone feel ashamed about. Mental illness deserves more attention that it receives, but it needs more positive attention. We need to be educating the masses about what mental illness is and how it impacts everyday life, rather than pushing it under the rug and making excuses.
"I've learned to celebrate my life, to embrace it. If I have the problems, the problems don't have me. They're not something to be ashamed of." - Carrie Fisher
If you know someone struggling with mental illness, please be supportive, and point them in the right directions. There are lots of available resources out there, these are just two that they can call:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line – Text NAMI to 741-741