Carrie Fisher, Dead At 60, Should Be Remembered For Mental Health Advocacy Above All [Opinion]

Jeffrey Grimm

Carrie Fisher, dead at 60, has plenty of accomplishments for which she should be recognized. Fisher was most well known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise. Additionally, she used her fame to become a successful writer, picking apart the inconsistencies and absurdities of the Hollywood industry. However, Carrie Fisher's most commendable work came as an advocate for mental health.

Fisher was not shy about her battle with depression and bipolar disorder. In fact, she embraced this part of her life to become a spokeswoman for people suffering with similar issues. Although a budding star in earlier decades, it was in the 1990s that Fisher felt it important to open up about her struggles.

"I used to think I was a drug addict, pure and simple—just someone who could not stop taking drugs willfully. And I was that. But it turns out that I am severely manic depressive."

Carrie Fisher became someone who indeed embraced her struggles. However, she initially rejected her need for assistance before making a turn for the better.

"Initially I didn't like the groups. I felt like I had been banished to sit with a group of other misfits like myself to sit still for an hour. But then someone said, 'You don't have to like these meetings, you just have to go, go until you like them.' That took me by surprise. I didn't have to like something I did? Wow, what a concept... My comfort wasn't the most important thing – my getting through to the other side of difficult feelings was."

Mental health issues carry a stigma, quite often because they are misunderstood. Tangible disease and injury that one can touch or see leaves no doubt to the contrary. However, mental illness falls in the category of disabilities that are invisible. What one cannot see creates difficulties in understanding the plight of the victim. There were many who took to social media to commend Fisher for engaging such a difficult topic and helping break down some metaphorical walls.

"I went into rehab when I was 28 years old, and then I was diagnosed as being bipolar. Because I grew up in a public family, I never really had a private life. And so if those issues are going to be public, I would rather them to be public the way I've experienced them rather than someone else assuming things about me. It's freeing to do it. Shame is not something I aspire to.... a lot of people are bipolar. So I get a lot of people coming up to me and thanking me for that."

The balanced and reasonable approach taken by Fisher has allowed her to take on the issue of mental health without any apprehension. Many people are afflicted with some form of mental disorder. As a society, it is firmly entrenched in the subset of conditions we are socialized to believe are embarrassing or, in worst cases, figments of our imagination. Carrie Fisher understood that this is not something she is fighting alone but something that many are going through. Armed with this simple bit of knowledge, an emboldened Fisher has helped reshape the conversation surrounding mental health.

Many will simply remember Carrie Fisher for her part in the Star Wars franchise. This remains understandable, as Star Wars has been such an entertainment behemoth for the better part of five decades. However, reducing Fisher to a character in a popular franchise doesn't tell the whole story.

[Featured Image by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Images]