Glenn Close Says We Should All 'Just Start Talking' About Mental Health
For those dealing with a mental illness, the isolation and anxiety brought about by coronavirus has made things a lot more difficult. People whose issues are not already well managed may find fewer resources available, or be on a downward spiral without others nearby to help.
That's where a national organization called Bring Change to Mind comes in. It was co-founded by actress Glenn Close with the goal of ending stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
Close spoke with Susanne Whatley, who hosts our newsroom's "Morning Edition" program on 89.3 KPCC, about the organization, the importance of mental health during the pandemic, her personal connection to the issue, and how she thinks her infamous "Fatal Attraction" character "added to the stigma" of mental illness at the time.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation:
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and you've jumped into action. What are you and your organization doing?
We're doing a lot of things. We have Bring Change to Mind high school clubs that have just taken off — they’re peer-led clubs, stigma free.
This month we have weekly meetings, Zoom meetings, with our clubs all across the country. We have national Zoom calls weekly with guests, and it’s kids talking to each other about what they're dealing with, not only in this really, really stressful time with COVID, but just in life itself.
Right now we have clubs in 37 L.A. schools, and we're hoping to ramp up to closer to 50 this year. And I'm so proud of the kids. I tried to join the national calls as much as I can, and I'm always moved by how open they are with each other, what they know to ask, and how open they are with the issues that they're dealing with.
Why is promoting mental health, and knocking down the stigmas, of personal importance to you?
My sister Jessie has lived with bipolar disorder for most of her life. And her son Calen lives with schizophrenia. But before Jessie and Calen got ill, our family had, we had no vocabulary for mental health for any kind of mental illness. Even though we're a family that had a lot of depression: We've had suicides, we've had a lot of alcoholism, and no one ever talked about it. So we decided as a family to start talking about it.
And that is the basic message of Bring Change To Mind: Just start talking about it. It makes you part of the human race.
We have a wonderful campaign now called #NoNormal. And I really, really am very psyched by it, because the more I think about it, the more I've asked myself, what is normal? Each one of us is so different.
You earned your fourth of seven Oscar nominations playing a deeply-disturbed character in Fatal Attraction. (Who can forget the pet rabbit in the cooking pot?) What was it like to play her and what's been the legacy of that character in the culture?
Her legacy is that she's considered one of the greatest villains of the 20th century. "Bunny boiler" became a part of the lexicon.
I think it added to the stigma. Her story wasn't really told. The "why" of her behavior wasn't really understood.
If I were telling that story today, it would be interesting to see it from her point of view. She was labeled evil when she was just out of control and needed help.
Nothing is normal in this coronavirus world. Could that be helping people, who don't struggle with mental illness, better empathize with those who do?
I hope so. My dad, who was a doctor, and was in Africa for many years — the last big event that he had something to do with was the first outbreak of Ebola. And I remember learning at that time that these viruses strike us where we're most vulnerable. And I think what we are learning in this country today and across the world, is where we are most vulnerable.
And I hope that as we come out of it, that will stay very much in the forefront of us as individuals, and also that we demand from our leaders that they pay attention and do something about where we're most vulnerable. And that certainly is in the whole landscape of mental health in this country.
Hear more of the interview with Glenn Close here:
Bring Change to Mind is partnering with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health this Sunday for a virtual town hall for all teens — find info at werise.la.
HOW TO ASK FOR HELP IF YOU (OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW) NEEDS IT:
- Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, 24/7 Access Line 1-800-854-7771, links to COVID-19 information.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
- The Crisis Text Line, Text "HOME" (741-741) to reach a trained crisis counselor.
- Steinberg Institute website, links to mental health resources and care throughout California,
- Institute on Aging's 24/7 Friendship Line (especially for people who have disabilities or are over 60), 1-800-971-0016 or call 415-750-4138 to volunteer.
- California Psychological Association Find a Psychologist Locator>>
- Psychology Today guide to therapists