"My mum battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life. She ultimately died of it," Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd told People this weekend in a compassionate statement about her mother's passing. Fisher's autopsy has, tragically, confirmed her struggle continued right up to her death.
Carrie Fisher on the set of Empire Strikes Back. Image: YouTube
A newly released coroner's report confirmed the legendary actress died of "sleep apnea and other undetermined factors". It also revealed she had cocaine, heroin and other drugs in her system at her time of death, although it could not be determined if those substances played a role in her passing. "Ms Fisher suffered what appeared to be a cardiac arrest on the aeroplane accompanied by vomiting and with a history of sleep apnea," the report continued.
Lourd's statement was a reminder of how Fisher openly discussed her addiction issues, shedding a compassionate light on a topic frequently considered somewhat taboo.
"She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases," Lourd said. "She talked about the shame that torments people and their families confronted by these diseases. I know my Mum, she'd want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles. Seek help, fight for government funding for mental health programs. Shame and those social stigmas are the enemies of progress to solutions and ultimately a cure. Love you Momby."
In the years before her passing, Fisher spent a good chunk of her time spreading awareness about mental illness and addiction. In 2001, the US National Alliance on Mental Illness gave her an award for her work. In 2016, Harvard University gave her the Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism. You don't just get honours like that, 15 years apart, without truly spreading your message and leaving an indelible mark.
Lourd's statement deserves to be read in full, and it's a moving tribute to her mother and how she used her problems to help others facing the same struggles. Fisher's final film appearance will be in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which opens December 14.