Those who keep regular tabs on the news will know that 2016 was quite the year for celebrity deaths.
Amongst the last to be taken from us was Carrie Fisher who most will know as Princess Leia from the Star Wars movies.
Image courtesy Lucasfilm
At just 19 she unwittingly auditioned for a low budget sci-fi movie written and directed by a relatively unknown director by the name of George Lucas that would go on to become one of the most seen and culturally transcendent movies ever made.
Star Wars: A New Hope and its sequels (and prequels) is the most successful franchise in history with an estimated worth of a little under $10 billion. It generates $1.5 billion in toys and games sales alone.
Carrie Fisher’s performance as the indomitable Princess Leia was a big part of the franchise’s success. At a time when women were still discriminated against, she was the leader of a rebellion. She was a soldier, a diplomat and a leader.
Her character was vital, vulnerable, strong, determined and brave and all of that was communicated through Carrie Fisher’s incredibly feeling performance. She loved the character as much as the fans came to love Leia.
It was her performances in A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi that would solidify her celebrity status for the rest of her life which was tragically cut short following a heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrest in December last year.
However, whilst she will always be remembered for being that fearless princess from a galaxy far, far away she was also a champion of the mental health community in the US.
Carrie Fisher was diagnosed at the age of 24 with bi-polar disorder and, in her own words, used cocaine and prescription medications to manage her condition.
She was actively using cocaine during the filming of Empire Strikes Back and it was at this point that Carrie realised she was no longer in control of her situation.
Carrie Fisher used her celebrity, natural charisma and disarming directness to advocate for a community that experiences far greater stigma in the US compared to Europe.
In an interview with ABC News, 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.”
It was this openness that prompted a wave of people outing themselves as having mental health issues on social media and began a growing movement in the States to change people’s perceptions of mental health.
In 2016, Harvard College awarded her their Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. They noted that "her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy”.
Image courtesy of Lucasfilm
As tributes flooded in from around the world about what an important part Princess Leia played in the childhood’s of men and women of all ages, one individual tweeted that whilst the world would remember her as a princess, for speaking out about bi-polar disorder she would forever be his queen.
Carried Fisher is survived by her daughter, Billie Lourd.
If you or someone you know is experiencing challenges related to an enduring mental health issue, we can help. Contact us today to speak to a member of our team.