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depressiontwoActress Carrie Fisher actually had an even bigger role than as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films – she was also a staunch advocate of mental health.

“I have a chemical imbalance that, in its most extreme state, will lead me to a mental hospital,” Fisher said to Diane Sawyer in a 2000 ABC News interview. “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.”

Fisher had been very outspoken for years about her mental health battles, something many fans lamented when Fisher died at age 60 on Dec. 27 after suffering a heart attack several days prior on an airplane. The actress talked candidly about bipolar disorder and how it impacted her life. She admitted there was still a stigma attached to discussing mental health – a barrier she wanted to help fight.

In 2001, Fisher spoke about mental health at a rally in Indianapolis, Indiana, to advocate for increased state funding for addiction and mental illness treatment.

“Medication has made me a good mother, a good friend, a good daughter,” she told the crowd of nearly 2,000, according to The Associated Press.

Indeed – whether it’s bipolar, attention deficit disorder, depression, or another mental health condition, a chemical balance can go a long way toward explaining why someone may be experiencing work-related problems; issues that are likely crossing over into one’s personal life as well.

The actress was open about suffering from bipolar disorder. In her book and show Wishful Drinking, she said that “living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls” and it’s “something to be proud of, not ashamed of.”

The author of this blog can TOTALLY relate to what Carrie Fisher said about the benefits of medication. In my own case, I’ll never forget how I felt when I started my own medication a decade ago, in 2002. downloadit was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes. “So this is how I’m SUPPOSED to feel!” I thought. “No wonder other people are happier and enjoy life more!” (It took roughly another five months before I landed a job, but that wasn’t as big a deal as it had been because I STILL felt better – thanks to a dedicated EA professional who had diagnosed my condition!)

In summary, it is a tremendous shame that bias and stigma remain barriers to mental health that need to be overcome. However, while Star Wars fans will mourn the passing of this film icon, they can take solace in knowing that Fisher will live on in making others aware of the importance of seeking help for a mental health condition.

Neither does a mental health condition make a person weak – in fact, quite the opposite is true. Fisher said: “Shame is not something I aspire to. … A lot of people are bipolar,” she told CBC Radio Active. “So I get a lot of people coming up to me and thanking me for that.”

Author’s note: Since this blog post was written, Carrie Fisher’s mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, also died. She was 84.