Carrie Fisher Changed How We Talk About Mental Illness

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated February 2, 2017

Fisher broke the rules and left nothing to hide

For many people suffering from mental illnesses, Carrie Fisher was more than a famous actress.
Fisher, who passed last month at 60 from a heart attack, served as a voice for those struggling with mental health issues. She was remarkably outspoken about her battles with addiction and bipolar disorder, helping to break the stigma that kept many celebrities in the dark.
Carrie Fisher gained notoriety for her witty, vulnerable and often self-deprecating self of humor. In such novels as Postcards from the Edge and Wishful Drinking, she dove headfirst into her personal battles with addiction and mental illness, often with such enthusiasm and a seriously dark sense of humor.

Ignoring Social Norms

Fisher chronicled how she got clean and gave the public a small peak into the comedy that occurs behind the curtain of 12-step groups. She shares how many people in recovery are able to share their darkest stories and can laugh about them. She gave mental illness the same attention, which was far from the norm in the 80s.
Fisher wasn’t the first to use her own pain to grab the audience’s attention but was one of the few celebrities to attack taboo subjects with such freedom. Her novels and memoirs weren’t just survival stories of coming out of a dark place and got better. She used her past experience as a tool show us to not take ourselves so seriously.
Fisher owned her illnesses in a way that normalized them. She proved that even the most quick-witted, trendy and funny actress could spend a few nights in the psych ward. They publish bestsellers. They can have some fun. They have wonderful families that adore them. She was the model of a successful woman that owned her own setbacks and moved forward.

Helping Others Speak Out

Fisher’s transparency ultimately set the stage for other celebrities to open up about their battles – offering a beacon of hope to those who are too afraid to speak out. She took the type of dark humor that many of us would only find in the rooms of 12 step meetings and put it out for the world to see. In an interview with ABC, she said “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. Better me than you.”

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.