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6 Reasons 'Star Wars' Is Key to My Mental Health

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I’m a mega “Star Wars” nerd. I have major depressive disorder. And the two are positively linked together in my mind.

There are many millions of us fans, each with our unique love of the franchise and its many parts. My path directly relates to my mental health, and in many ways, I suspect this is true for most, if not all, fans. Though they may not know it yet.

For the purpose of this writing, when I’m talking about “Star Wars,” I’m referring to anything that’s been on the big or small screen. I have particular affinity to the original trilogy, but pretty much love it all.

If you are a fan, perhaps my ideas may enhance your relationship to the story. If you’re new to the universe, it may give you some extra appreciation, or help you understand a special nerd in your life. And if, like me, you have a mental illness, it may just save your life. It has mine.

Let’s go ahead and jump into why, in my opinion, “Star Wars” is so important.

1. Hope as a central theme.

Throughout the entirety of the saga, there is an overarching theme of hope. It shows up in many places, and is central to some of its iconic dialogue.

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”

“Rebellions are built on hope.”

The underdogs face insurmountable foes and the odds of winning are low. Yet, by remaining hopeful and pushing themselves forward, our heroes gain victory. If you’d like to have this type of story arch blow your mind even more, look into the concept of the hero’s journey.

When I’m depressed, I lose hope. I start to believe things will never get better or will, in fact, only get worse. Depression is almost the antithesis of “Star Wars,” and so it should come as no surprise it brings me my answers. It’s taught me to look for the light in my dark places. It’s taught me to keep fighting. It’s helped me believe in tomorrow.

2. The connections.

Even space cowboys need a helping hand every now and then. The “Star Wars” saga is, simply put, a story about connections and just how important they are in shaping us. Boy and mother, father and son, sister and brother, pilot and best friend, smuggler and lover, droid and fighter, master and Padawan. These movies show time and time again how these connections can move you forward or hold you back.

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In my own life, I need support to be able to function well with my disorder. I have a therapist, psychiatrist and support worker. I have many helpful friends and acquaintances. Yes, there are things only I can do for myself, but I still need help getting there. The”Star Wars” story helps me to remember this. It’s a reminder to cherish those who do help me, and for me to help others when I can. It’s also a reminder to steer clear of folks who might drag me to the dark side, AKA, depression.

3. The way it’s existential.

There is something very existential abut Star Wars. In fact, some describe it as religious — I think for good reason. The story itself is in a constant battle with the idea of good vs. evil  (light vs. dark) and the capacity of each individual to go either way. It frequently touches on redemption, as well as trusting in an unseen force.

Existential dread comes with the territory of depression, at least it does for me. When I’m deep down in a depressive episode, it’s common for me to start having thoughts about why I’m still here. As you’ve already figured out, “Star Wars” helps me with this, too.  It’s shown me what I believe is, in part, my life’s meaning. That I feel better when I do things in the service of others. This is why I’m a mental health advocate online and in real life. It’s why I’m writing what you’re reading right now.

4. My ability to go full nerd.

“Star Wars” gives its fans permission to go full nerd, in whatever way(s) suits you. And there is a lot to be a nerd about. Dialogue, costumes, music, technology, side characters, props, humor, planets, language, cast and on and on. For some, it also brings fond childhood memories, or has created important relationships between family members or friends.

Photo of author kneeling next to a "Star Wars" figure with a green lightsaber

Being a “Star Wars” nerd has, quite literally, kept me alive. Depression comes with a set of symptoms that can include having suicidal thoughts, which is something I’ve struggled with. There were times in that dark place I had to truly dig deep to convince myself to stay. The reason I found was “Star Wars.”

I had to stay alive to see the next movie, meet my heroes or experience whatever new creation is around the corner. What if one day I can be an extra on a set? I have to stick around. As silly as that all may sound, my love for this universe is my anchor when times get tough. Being a fully committed fan has saved me.

5. The cast and crew.

Everyone will have their own favorite characters, and for a lot of great reasons. Beyond the characters though, “Star Wars”  provides us with so many people to love and appreciate in the cast and crew. The actors, directors, artists, musicians and so on.

Personally, I especially love our “space mom,” Carrie Fisher. This is a woman who became a public figure and was open about having bipolar disorder long before it was being talked about openly. She represents something special to me and others. It’s something outside of the main narrative, yet impacts us all the same. I had the chance to do a photo op with her shortly before her passing, and it will always be a treasured memory.

Photo of author sitting on a red couch with Carrie Fisher

I also particularly like Mark Hamil, both on and off screen. He’s funny and kind to his fans. Other folks treasure the various members of the world for their own reasons. And this link, whatever it is, harkens back to connection. These are people we care about, and who, in most cases, care about their fans.

6. Knowing I’m not alone.

This point is more on the meta-level, but I think it’s still important to factor in. I started off this writing stating there are many millions of “Star Wars” fans, and that’s true. We all love it for different reasons and in different ways, but we millions, love it.

Depression tells me I’m the last (wo)man standing. That no one else has my struggles, I’m all alone and my pain is somehow unique. That is all a lie. I’m reminded it’s a lie when I see the line around the block for the latest film. I’m reminded it’s a lie when the internet explodes with its newfound love for Baby Yoda. And I’m reminded when I hear about the charity work of the 501st Legion, read a great fan theory, laugh at an on-point meme and when I quote a line and someone nods because they know what I’m talking about.

I am not alone in this universe, the human condition is one we all share.

Photo of author's room filled with 'Star Wars' decorations

And that, my friends, is why “Star Wars” has been so important to my mental health. I know there are more reasons, and that other fans have many fascinating stories about how they belong as a fellow nerd.

In the end, I truly believe “Star Wars” has a special magic. A magic that is worth our time for both contemplating and celebrating! Thank you for reading my thoughts on this.

Do you love “Star Wars?” Have you found it helps you with your mental health, or perhaps some other way? Share with us your experience! Have you thought about this universe in the context of mental health before or is this a new concept? Have a neat story to tell? Share that, too! Perhaps you feel the same way about another universe in movies or books? Which fandom has been a help to you?

If you enjoyed this article, please take a moment to check out some of my other articles here on The Mighty. If you’d like to follow along with my journey, you can find me on Instagram as @mentalhealthyxe.

Original photos by author

Originally published: January 3, 2021
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