Glenn Close’s sister inspired the actress to start an organization aimed at raising awareness for people suffering from mental illness.
The Fatal Attraction star’s sibling, Jessie, was diagnosed with bipolar depression in 2004, and a decade later Close launched Bring Change 2 Mind because she felt it was important to combat the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“(The biggest misconception) is that people with mental illness are dangerous,” she said at the WebMD Health Hero Awards on Thursday. “There are so many headlines and so many tragedies that have happened because there is no system in our country that will help those people from falling through the net, from becoming isolated. But (the number of mentally ill people who commit crimes) is a very, very small percentage… Unfortunately it leads to other people getting hurt and it makes our job a little bit more difficult because it can build up the stigma.”
Close opened up about her family’s struggle with mental illness last year, when she detailed her early years with the radical religious group the Moral Re-Armament (MRA).
“There was a lot of depression in our family, which led to a lot of alcoholism, and there has been suicide – my mom’s half-brother,” she told People. “My mom had an uncle who was schizophrenic. At 15 years old, Jessie walked out of school and refused to go back. Even so, it was just, ‘That’s how Jessie is’. It wasn’t a question of a mental disorder. My parents were of a generation where people didn’t go to psychiatrists.”
Despite Jessie’s struggle with the disease and the bad experiences she and the family have had, Close is assuring people there is relief.
“The fact is you are not your illness,” she added. “You can get help, there is medication, there is a huge revolution in genetic research that will help actually pinpoint genes that are causing these illnesses. Just like cancer, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s (disease) we have to embrace the fact that (mental illness) is part of the human condition and not condemn people.”