Glenn Close Discusses Mental Health Stigma

By Lindsey Weedston 01/25/19

The "Damages" actress spoke about the stigma surrounding those with mental health issues during a recent lecture. 

Glenn Close

Golden Globe winner and vocal mental health advocate Glenn Close took another opportunity to speak on the dangers of stigma against mental illness during a recent lecture in central Ohio.

The renowned actress was invited to speak as part of the Jefferson Series, described as “a collection of stimulating forums featuring some of the world’s most compelling and esteemed thinkers” that takes place in New Albany, Ohio each year.

During her lecture, Close talked about mental illness in her family and about her book Resilience: Two Sisters and a Story of Mental Illness. Her sister, Jessie Close, has bipolar disorder and Glenn Close herself has dealt with depression at times throughout her life.

However, due largely to stigma against mental illness and a silence around the issue within their family, Jessie remained undiagnosed until the age of 50.

According to a CBS interview from March 2018, Glenn Close was alarmed to discover how often those with bipolar disorder die by suicide and realized that she could have easily lost her sister.

According to an analysis published in the US National Library of Medicine, researchers have found that anywhere from 25 to 60% of people with bipolar disorder have a history of attempting suicide. In the general adult population in the US, the rate of attempted suicide is 0.5%.

These revelations led the two Close sisters to establish the anti-stigma foundation Bring Change 2 Mind in 2010. Glenn Close has since used her fame to speak out against the stigma surrounding mental illness that kept her family quiet on the issue for so long.

“I come from a family that had no vocabulary for mental illness,” Close wrote in 2016. “Toxic stigma and the social mores of the time made any conversation about possible mental health issues taboo. The lack of conversation was very costly.”

In addition to the sisters’ illnesses, Jessie Close’s son, Calen, has schizophrenia and spent two years in a hospital for those with mental health issues.

In her recent lecture, Close encouraged people to examine their own attitudes around mental illness that might be preventing them from seeking help or offering help to a struggling family member.

“You have to examine yourself to see whether you have any kind of stigma that's just been inadvertently fed into you and then realize your family member can lead a viable life," she said. "You can have a life, but you have to get help. And the sooner you get help, the better your life will be.”

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at Twitter: