4 Ways Late Actor Carrie Fisher Fought Mental Health Stigma

Headshot of Late Actor Carrie FisherWhen actor Carrie Fisher died on Tuesday, December 27 after suffering a heart attack at age 60, fans of the sci-fi Star Wars series and the role she played as Princess Leia Organa—and General Organa in a recent iteration of the series—took to social media to mourn her passing with heartfelt tributes. In addition to paying homage to the fictional characters she brought to life in Hollywood, many of Fisher’s fans also honored the way she candidly spoke about her own experience with mental health issues, such as bipolar and addiction, and how she worked to eliminate mental health stigma and improve treatment.

According to CNN, Fisher was given a bipolar diagnosis at 24 and struggled with drug and alcohol addiction in the 1970s and 1980s. She opened up about her experiences in writing and interviews and became an vocal advocate for mental health awareness. Some of her influences on improving mental health and reducing stigma include:

Carrie Fisher Wrote About Her Own Mental Health Experiences

Fisher wrote about her own experiences as a Hollywood icon with bipolar and about drug and alcohol abuse in novels and memoirs. Wishful Drinking, one of her most popular autobiographical works, was published in 2008 and discusses some of her experiences with bipolar, electroconvulsive therapy as a mental health treatment, alcoholism, and drug addiction. Many tragedies in her life were painted with candid humor and honesty in her published writing.

Carrie Fisher Humanized Her Experiences with Bipolar and Depression

Fisher was one of the most outspoken celebrities to talk about living with a mental health issue. She helped the public understand what daily life could be like when living with bipolar. In a 1995 Interview with ABC News’s Diana Sawyer, Fisher said, “I have two moods. One is Roy, rollicking Roy, the wild ride of a mood. And Pam, sediment Pam who stands on the shore and sobs … Sometimes the tide is in, sometimes it’s out.” She went on to do many interviews in which she shared her personal experiences, questioned the pervasiveness of mental health stigma, and advocated for better mental health treatment.

Carrie Fisher Spoke of the Courage It Takes to Live with Mental Health Issues

This page contains at least one affiliate link for the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which means GoodTherapy.org receives financial compensation if you make a purchase using an Amazon link.
Mental health stigma leads some to perceive mental health issues as fundamental flaws or weaknesses, which causes many to avoid treatment altogether out of shame or fear of being labeled. Fisher, however, spoke about the courage it takes to live every day with a diagnosis such as bipolar. In her memoir Wishful Drinking, Fisher wrote, “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.”

Carrie Fisher Advocated for Better Mental Health Treatment

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, less than half of adults with a diagnosable mental health issue and only about 1 in 5 children receive the mental health treatment they need. As previously mentioned, significant barriers to treatment are stigma and fear of mental health treatment. In her life, Fisher spoke adamantly about the need for treatment and how it saves lives, she appeared at rallies to argue for increased government funding for mental health services, and encouraged people living with mental health issues to seek treatments such as therapy and medication when needed.

Farewell to a Fierce Mental Health Ally

Fans of Fisher’s mental health advocacy said farewell in some of the following tweets:

References:

  1. Carrie Fisher pushes mental health. (2001, February 28.) Retrieved from http://staugustine.com/stories/022801/ent_0228010001.shtml#.WGRUXvkrKM_
  2. Howard, J. (2016, December 27). Carrie Fisher was a champion for mental health, too. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/27/health/mental-health-carrie-fisher/
  3. Mental health myths and facts. (n.d.) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.gov/basics/myths-facts/
  4. Migala, J. (2016, December 28). 8 powerful Carrie Fisher quotes about mental health. Retrieved from http://ew.com/news/2016/12/28/carrie-fisher-quotes-mental-health/?xid=entertainment-weekly_socialflow_twitter
  5. PrimeTime: Carrie Fisher interview (2016, December 21). Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=132315&page=1
  6. Worland, J. (2016, December 27). Carrie Fisher didn’t just break boundaries onscreen. Retrieved from http://time.com/4618486/carrie-fisher-dead-mental-health-legacy/

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 10 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • simon

    simon

    December 29th, 2016 at 6:57 AM

    She was a voice and an advocate before so many others. Her wit and wisdom will be sorely missed.

  • Freda

    Freda

    December 29th, 2016 at 8:58 AM

    I always liked and respected her because she almost seemed fearless. She didn’t care what you thought about her and didn’t mind saying so. I can very much admire that in a person. I like a woman who is strong and who isn’t afraid to show it, flaws and all, and that was how she seemed to be to me.

  • leon

    leon

    December 29th, 2016 at 3:19 PM

    The thing that I loved about her is that she did not use her fame to hide from her demons, but rather as a forum for confronting them head on. She fully acknowledged the struggles that she had been through in her life, but it was a testament that if you work hard then you might not necessarily overcome, but you can make the pain more manageable and you can have a stability in your life that you might not have ever imagined that you could have.
    A voice like that in this world is needed for all of us.

  • Patricia

    Patricia

    December 30th, 2016 at 9:10 AM

    Carrie Fisher always played these acerbic and strong women on screen and I have a feeling that this is what she was like in real life too. I have been a fan of both her and her mother’s for a very long time and they will leave large shoes, both of them, that will not soon be filled.

  • Harris

    Harris

    December 30th, 2016 at 1:03 PM

    One of the most misunderstood parts of any mental illness is that I believe others who are mentally healthy do not see the courage that it can take to live day in and day out with an illness such as this. It can be a real stress on anyone to have a rough day but imagine if there are all sorts of other issues that you are dealing with too? At times this can make life very overwhelming and if you are not brave enough to stare it down it can take you down in an instant.

  • liam

    liam

    December 30th, 2016 at 4:22 PM

    She was a warrior and those who choose to just make it all about the gold bikini, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • brice

    brice

    December 31st, 2016 at 7:50 AM

    She spoke out about her life and was not shamed to do so. It is this kind of vocal support for mental health awareness that is going to make a change in how mental illnesses are perceived.

    We can no longer hide what we live in the shadows. We have to be willing, just like Carrie Fisher did, to share the ups and the downs, the pain and the sorrow as well as the laughter and the smiles.

    The more we make this a topic of conversation that we do not have to feel ashamed of then the more others will begin to understand our journey.

  • Deb

    Deb

    January 2nd, 2017 at 8:55 AM

    So who picks up the banner now?
    She was so open and outspoken about her own struggles and I feel like in many ways we still need someone like this to take up that message and continue where she so unfortunately had to leave off. I think that celebs are the people that many of us still look to, for better or for worse, and so if they are willing to speak up and speak out then maybe some of the rest of us will start to do the same.

  • Allison

    Allison

    January 7th, 2017 at 11:49 AM

    And had her ashes stored in a Prozac pill! What a brilliant tongue in cheek nod to the things that made her who she was, not a denial but an embrace! I love it!

  • liam

    liam

    January 9th, 2017 at 4:48 AM

    for her as for me writing can be a very therapeutic journey

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.