This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be on a panel for Salt Lake Comic Con‘s FanX called Carrie Fisher: To Me, She’s Royalty. This gave us the opportunity to discuss with the audience the impact that she has had on our lives and to relive memories we have had of her.
Although I have heard worries about how the panel would play out, I personally felt the power of influence this woman has had over our lives. Audience members discussed how Carrie Fisher affected them and allowed us to see their vulnerabilities regarding their mental illness. For them to allow a room full of strangers to see this side shows great strength. I know first hand how terrifying it can be to open up about something so personal and not know if you will receive the validation back that you may crave. Others were showing regret that they will never have a chance to show their gratitude to Carrie regarding her wonderful influence she has created for us.
This is where I disagree. I didn’t personally know Carrie, but do know that when you have a mental illness, you automatically connect with others and speak in a language that feels unique and validation is received. I do know that we can thank Carrie by continuing her work and be an advocate for others who are suffering an illness that is debilitating. We can be that friend, mentor, advocate, support system, and fighter. When facing your illness, often it feels like you are alone and unable to recognize that others in your circle are facing the same issue.
In reality, here are some statistics on mental illness:
- Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.1
- Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.2
- Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.3
- 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia.4
- 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.5
- 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.6
- 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.7
- Among the 20.2 million adults in the U.S. who experienced a substance use disorder, 50.5%—10.2 million adults—had a co-occurring mental illness.8
Give yourself credit and praise that you deserve. Having to face this issue on a daily basis truly is worth receiving a medal. People will feel lonely as if no one else cares for them. Even when this is simply not true, trying to convince your brain otherwise can be an additional challenge that may leave you more exhausted. The struggle is real and this is something you do not have to face alone.
Carrie Fisher was a wonderful advocate who embraced her own mental illness and encouraged others to continue their fight. We can help continue her legacy by supporting NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention), as well as Make-A-Wish Foundation.
People do love you. People do care. Keep fighting. You have so much worth and that is something no one can take away from you. Even those demons.