Glenn Close Is On A Mission To End Mental Health Stigma

By Victoria Kim 03/20/18

The actress and her sister started a foundation dedicated to helping people feel comfortable discussing mental health.

Glenn Close
Photo via YouTube

Actress Glenn Close continues her mission to take the stigma out of mental health.

The two-time Golden Globe winner and her sister, Jessie Close, shared their own mental health battles and how they are breaking down the stigma of mental illness in a recent interview with CBS News.

Close has struggled with depression, and her sister was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 50. It wasn’t until Jessie finally let her sister know that she was struggling in 2003, that she was able to do something about it. The actress said she never knew how close she was to losing Jessie. “Many people who live with bipolar disorder have deaths by suicide,” she said.

The two sisters weren’t taught about mental health, growing up in a family where the subject was avoided. “I come from a family that had no vocabulary for mental illness,” Close wrote in a 2016 essay in Mashable. “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.”

This made it difficult for the sisters to come to terms with their own issues. “It wasn’t taken seriously,” Jessie said. Nobody suspected that anything was wrong. But once depression kicked in, which she describes as “beyond blackness,” she was tormented by a voice in her head telling her to “kill yourself, over and over and over.”

Drawing from their own battles, the sisters established Bring Change to Mind in 2010, a foundation dedicated to ending the stigma around mental illness, and helping people (especially young people) feel comfortable talking about mental health.

The actress attributes the success of Bring Change to Mind to the communities it has formed, and the connections it has made. “You come into a community of people that have lived with what you’re living with and understand what you’re going through,” said Close.

Too much solitude can add fuel to the fire in someone who is struggling within themselves. The actress encourages people to check up on one another, saying it’s everybody’s responsibility to care.

“A lot of times a lot of isolation goes on, which is dangerous. Be aware of how connected we truly are, and if one connection is broken, there could be terrible repercussions. So, we can’t afford to ignore, and to think it’s somebody else’s problem anymore.”

Close’s nephew, Calen Pick, lives with schizophrenia. “When I became an advocate I realized that is a family affair for one in four of us,” she said. “One in four is touched in some way by mental illness. So, it became obvious to me that we have to talk about it.”

Making connections and debunking misconceptions about mental illness—e.g. that it often causes people to become violent or affects only certain people—are key to destigmatizing mental illness and taking the shame out of it, which can be just as painful.

“To let those that might feel marginalized or silenced by stigma become part of a group and accepted will save lives. Period,” said Close.

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