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Tribute: Carrie Fisher spared nobody, least of all herself

The ‘Star Wars’ actor and writer died of a heart attack at the age of 60 on December 27.

The tweet by her co-star Mark Hamill summed up Hollywood’s general reaction to the death of one of its most iconic and unconventional stars. Carrie Fisher died on December 27 after suffering a heart attack on a flight. She was 60, and leaves behind several films, books, television series, and a rich side career in script doctoring.

Fisher is best known across the world for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. She was 17 when she was signed up by George Lucas to play the rebel princess who is the sister of Hamill’s Luke Skywalker character. In a 2011 interview, Fisher recalled that “this goofy, little three-month hang-out with robots did something unexpected”. Star Wars, the first in a trilogy and part of a larger continuing billion-dollar franchise, “exploded across the firmament of pop culture, taking all of us along with it”, Fisher noted.

Carrie Fisher and other characters in ‘Return of the Jedi’ (1983).
Carrie Fisher and other characters in ‘Return of the Jedi’ (1983).

Born on October 21, 1956, to the 1950s star Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher, Carrie Fisher made her screen debut in Robert Towne’s political satire Shampoo in 1975.

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Carrie Fisher in ‘Shampoo’.

Fisher became a global icon after the Star Wars films, in which she was paired with Harrison Ford’s dashing pilot Han Solo. The outspoken actress, who later battled addiction and mental illness, was critical of many aspects of the productions, from her hairstyle to her notorious metal bikini in Return of the Jedi (1983) to the often corny dialogue. A typical Fisher remark to Lucas: “You can type this stuff, but you can’t say it.”

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Best Han and Leia moments.

Fisher was equally outspoken about her bipolar disorder, which she discussed in her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards from the Edge in 1987 and her memoirs. Fisher wrote the screenplay for the screen adaptation by Mike Nichols, starring Meryl Streep as Suzanne, an actress and a recovering drug addict.

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‘Postcards from the Edge’.

Fisher’s other film credits include The Blues Brothers (1980), Garbo Talks (1984), Hollywood Vice Squad (1986) and When Harry Met Sally (1989). She made a comeback as Princess Leia in the 2015 blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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Carrie Fisher and Meg Ryan in ‘When Harry Met Sally’.

Apart from doctoring numerous scripts and writing books and novels, Fisher also appeared on television, often as herself. In Catastrophe, she plays Mia, the acerbic mother of Rob Delaney’s character.

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‘Catastrophe’.

Her wit, intelligence and honesty animated her numerous public appearances, where she spared nobody, least of all herself.

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‘George Lucas ruined my life’.
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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.