Carrie Fisher’s honesty in confronting mental illness inspires Philly ‘Lifesaver of the Year’

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     Actress Carrie Fisher attends a special screening of, 'Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds', at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

    Actress Carrie Fisher attends a special screening of, 'Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds', at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016, in New York. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

    When actress Carrie Fisher died Tuesday, she left a legacy of mental health advocacy. Fisher’s storytelling around recovery has touched many advocates and artists.

    In 1987, she wrote “Postcards from the Edge,” recounting her experience battling drug addiction. It was later made into a film.

    In part of an early scene from the movie, when the main character, played by Meryl Streep, wakes up from a night in the hospital after a drug overdose, she has a frank conversation with the director of a rehab center.

    “Why did they pump my stomach?” she says.

    “You would have died if they hadn’t,” responds the director.

    Critics have praised the movie for offering a raw and honest look at the difficulties of early sobriety, during a time when stories of its kind were less common.

    Kevin Hines is a mental health advocate and storyteller who feels touched by Fisher’s legacy as he mourns her passing.

    “It’s devastating because she paved the way for all of us advocates to do this work. She was one of the first open, and quite loud voices,” he said.

    Like Fisher, Hines has bipolar disorder. He survived a suicide attempt when he jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge.

    His documentary, “Suicide: The Ripple Effect,” is set for release in the fall. Hines believes that storytelling through film can help prevent harm.

    “If they’re done with an effort to not be sensationalistic, to educate, to inspire and to inform, I think that film can have a transformative effect in helping to change someone’s life,” he said.

    Hines said his film project has created a sense of community among some who are grappling with mental illness. That sense of community, he believes, can help translate into lives saved.

    Hines will receive the Lifesaver of the Year Award from the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention on Jan. 7 at the Save a Life Gala at The Curtis Center.

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