Actress and writer Carrie Fisher, who died on Tuesdays was best-known for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" movie franchise.
However, many more fans will always remember her for what she did off-screen that established her as one of the most cherished icons.
Throughout her life, Fisher spoke passionately about her struggles with bipolar disorder, addiction, and alcoholism, something she was outspoken about at a time when depression, addiction, and other diseases were heavily stigmatized.
Just many other people who have suffered from mental ill-health, it took Fisher years to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and even longer for her to accept it.
What made Fisher such an influential advocate for mental health awareness wasn’t just her willingness to speak on the subject. It was how she talked about her manic depression that set her apart: with a sardonic, darkly comic tone that made her battles sound normal, not tragic.
Fisher in her 2008 memoir Wishful Drinking, wrote, “So having waited my entire life to get an award for something, anything (okay fine, not acting, but what about a tiny little award for writing? Nope). I now get awards all the time for being mentally ill. I’m apparently very good at it and am honoured for it regularly."
Shwe added, "Probably one of the reasons I’m such a shoo-in is that there’s no swimsuit portion of the competition. Hey, look, it’s better than being bad at being mentally ill, right? How tragic would it be to be runner-up for Bipolar Woman of the Year?”
She spoke against stigma in a very candid and comic tone. "One of the things that baffle 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. Not unlike a tour of Afghanistan (though the bombs and bullets, in this case, come from the inside).”
And she said this about self-stigma, “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. They should issue medals along with the steady stream of medication."
Fisher saw humour in mental illness, not tragedy. Her passionate efforts to rid of the world mental health stigma have open many doors for millions of people who struggle silently with mental illness.
The world is a better place today due to her bold, honest and witty view on mental health. RIP Fisher. We will continue from where you left. Aluta Continua, Victoria Acerta.
The Author is mental health and child rights advocate and the Founder/CEO of Psychiatric Disability Organization. He can be reached on: [email protected] Website: http://www.pdokenya.org/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Psychiatricdisability/