Celebrating Women’s History Month: Spotlight on Carrie Fisher

In celebration of Women’s History Month, I’m reflecting on someone who first inspired me as a child, but as an adult, made an even more lasting impression. It’s rare that our childhood heroes continue to inspire us into adulthood.

Carrie Fisher is the exception.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit how many times I dressed up as Princess Leia for Halloween as a child. Oh, those hair buns and white garb. Full disclosure: I carried my Leia Star Wars figure everywhere!

Be brave

But there was good reason for my admiration. In my childhood, Princess Leia the character embodied the brave, sassy, strong woman who could take on any kind of symbolic dark side. But into adulthood, Carrie Fisher the person truly proved her strength and bravery, as she spoke to the world about her mental health challenges.

At the age of 24, Carrie Fisher was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This disorder is characterized with episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. It wasn’t until an overdose at the age of 28 that she finally accepted her diagnosis.

Not one to shy away from the spotlight, Fisher remained an advocate for eliminating stigma around mental health and raising awareness for the need for treatment until her death in 2016 at the age of 60 from cardiac arrest. Along the way, she wrote five critically acclaimed novels, three memoirs, and multiple humorous scripts.

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.

– Carrie Fisher

Through humor, courage, and a raw openness, Carrie Fisher shattered barriers to talking about mental illness, especially for women.

Let’s talk about it, and listen

As president of Hyland’s newly formed mental health employee resource group, Peace of Mind, I’m proud  of our goal to eliminate stigmas by empowering employees to talk about mental health in the workplace. Because mental health is a spectrum, and does not discriminate, it will touch all of us at some point in our lives, either directly or indirectly.

We’re making progress, but we still have a lot of work to do. And we’re learning from each other along the way. A few simple steps we can all take to empower each other include honesty when someone asks that very standard question that kicks off every meeting or call: “How are you?”

Of course, not every meeting is a forum to talk openly and share. But what if you started a conversation with: “How are you, really?”

Huge difference, right?

By adding one simple word, the implication is that you’re actually listening, that you genuinely want to know, you care, and you’re ready for the answer to be more than “fine” or “good.”

Carrie Fisher often spoke openly in her column in The Guardian. And that’s important. We all need to speak openly, especially in light of all that we’ve gone through over the past year.

As an employee resource group, we’re very much in our infancy, but we’re already seeing demand. With more than 100 members from around the globe, Hyland employees are eager to connect, share, and learn. It is a true community, free of judgement.

Our goal is to use what we learn in the Peace of Mind group to help with our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Destigmatizing mental health in every organization’s hiring, review, and promotion processes is important. Because, as I mentioned earlier, mental health will touch all of us at some point in our lives, directly or indirectly.

Together, we can continue the mission of Carrie Fisher to eliminate mental health stigma and provide access to resources and treatment. Together, we are a Force.

Ann Marie Hutchins

Ann Marie Hutchins

Ann Marie Hutchins is the wellness program manager at Hyland. She earned a BA in French and Education and an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Hiram College. Ann Marie is... read more about: Ann Marie Hutchins

2 Responses

  1. Avatar Lisa Berg says:

    Well said Ann Marie. The more we bring mental illness out of the shadows, the more we feel safe and authentic. Thanks for this blog!

  2. Avatar Kelly Davis says:

    Great post, Ann Marie! I am so glad Hyland created Peace of Mind to generate conversations around mental health at the company and to empower our employees. I can’t wait to see how this ERG grows over time!

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