To most of the world, Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia. But for many of us, her greatest role might have been as an advocate for mental health awareness. Fisher, who struggled with bipolar disorder and addiction, never shied away from speaking candidly about her mental illness, and in doing so, inspired countless people to do the same. While many paid tribute to Fisher yesterday by honoring her work as an actress in films such as When Harry Met Sally, in addition to Star Wars, many also remembered her for her work in destigmatizing mental illness. After her death on Tuesday, fans on Twitter commemorated her legacy of openness about mental illness, using the hashtag #InHonorOfCarrie to share their stories of how Fisher helped them overcome their struggles.
Fisher, who once proposed a "Bipolar Pride Day" in her book, The Best Awful, paved the way for many of us to open up about our mental health struggles and to seek the help we need. While having to say goodbye to her is undoubtedly devastating, her legacy is a reminder of how important it is to work to end the stigma around mental illness. After all, Fisher didn't just break boundaries onscreen — in her openness offscreen, she also changed the way we discuss mental health. As actress Margaret Cho so aptly tweeted, "be as strong as she'd want you to be."