When actress Glenn Close launched a foundation to destigmatize mental illness, she had a deeply personal reason.
In an interview with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts, the “Damages” actress talked about why she started Bring Change 2 Mind in 2010.
“One day my sister, we were visiting my parents, my sister came up to me, and she said ‘I need help. I can't stop thinking about killing myself.’ And that pulverized me,” Close, 68, recalled. “Ours was a family that never, ever, ever talked about mental illness, or the possibility of some sort of mental disorder.”
Close’s sister, Jessie Close, had lived with mental illness her entire life, but it wasn’t until she was in her 50s that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Asked why she thought it took so long for Jessie to receive a proper diagnosis, Close replied: “I think largely, it was the stigma around mental disorder. The stigma, and what stigma can do, to make it difficult for people to just negotiate, you know, daily, is real.”
Close added that stigma was “a tricky thing to try to change.
“It can be very, very difficult,” she said. “That’s why we’re out there, saying, ‘You’ve got to start the conversation.’”
Close launched Bring Change 2 Mind to fight the stereotypes she says are associated with mental illness.
“One in four of us are touched in some way by mental illness. One in four. In this room, walking down the street,” Close said, referring to a statistic released by the National Alliance on Mental Health. “So it's always seems ridiculous to me that we aren't more courageous about talking about it, because it touches all of us."
Close traveled to Capitol Hill in 2013 to urge passage of the Excellence in Mental Health Act that was written to expand treatment for mental health sufferers and access to mental health services. The bill, signed into law by President Obama in April 2014, will give $1.1B in funding to help strengthen the mental health care system in the US.
Close will be honored tonight at the second annual WebMD Health Hero Awards for her advocacy work surrounding mental illness. Roberts will be hosting the event where Close will be presented with the Peoples Choice award. Roberts asked Close what she’d like to see happen.
“I want to give people the strength and the support to talk about it -- that it's okay,” she said. “It's a human condition. That pretty much says it all.”
Roberts' interview with Close was conducted by Roberts’ production company, Rock'n Robin Productions.