Glenn Close Helps Fountain House Launch Anti-Stigma Campaign

Posted on April 30, 2010

Interview with Glenn and Jessie Close

Interview with Ron Howard

Interview with Lorna Graev and Isabelle Jasinowski

On Wednesday, October 21, celebrated actress, activist and Fountain House friend Glenn Close helped launch our groundbreaking anti-stigma campaign, BringChange2Mind.org.

Appearing with her sister Jessie on ABC’s Good Morning, America and “The View” and MSNBC’s Dr. Nancy, Glenn spoke candidly about Jessie’s struggle with bi-polar disorder, the importance of supportive loved ones and self-advocacy, and the persistent stigma still attached to mental illness.

“An ‘aha moment’ hit me several years ago, when I realized that three deeply frightening words had power over me: schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar,” said Close. “There is mental illness in my family. And I knew that if I really wanted to help, I would have to learn to say those words fearlessly, out loud. That was the beginning of my involvement with Fountain House.”

BringChange2Mind.org was developed to challenge similar fears and stigma head-on. The genesis of the campaign was a meeting between Glenn and Fountain House board member Anne Mai three years ago. At the time, Glenn felt compelled to be involved with mental illness in some way because of its impact on her family. Seeking insight, she volunteered at Fountain House developing relationships with members and staff alike.

That experience gave Glenn the understanding and confidence she needed to emerge as a public spokesperson for mental health issues, something she was reluctant to do without direct personal involvement with the issue outside of her family.

Anne, Glenn and Fountain House President Kenn Dudek began collaborating with the clubhouse’s longtime creative agency, “the watsons,” to develop ideas for a public service educational campaign that would be both powerful and personal. Garen and Shari Staglin, founders of International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), and Susan Resko and Susan Madian, of the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation (CABF), quickly signed on to help take the initiative to the next level.

With the “BringChange2Mind concept set, Glenn asked her sister if she would be willing to “out” herself in a national television spot as someone living with bi-polar disorder. Jessie agreed immediately. In August, the Close sisters and a cast of one hundred extras — many from the Fountain House community — gathered in Grand Central Station to shoot the campaign’s first script.

Additional star power was provided by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, who supervised the production, and Grammy-winning recording artist John Mayer, whose song, “Say,” provided the background music. Both generously donated their talents. The PSA has since been seen on cable and broadcast channels in New York and four other major markets across the country.

An impressive coalition of national mental health organizations has signed on to support BringChange2Mind.org and its two-fold mission to 1) combat stigma by providing easy access to information that contradicts harmful misconceptions about mental illness, and 2) provide people living with mental illness as well as their families and friends with quick and easy access to resources and support.

“The goal of the campaign is to start a national conversation,” says Mai, “to bring mental illness out in the open and into the light of day. Stigma implies shame, which can be destructive and debilitating. We want people to talk about mental illness the same way they talk about diabetes — as just one more thing that can be dealt with as part of daily life.”

A lively and content-rich website, www.bringchange2mind.org, is the centerpiece of this multi-media campaign, offering visitors a place to share their stories, educate themselves, and access critical resources in an easy to use format. The PSA and behind-the-scenes interviews with the Close sisters and other volunteers are available. To date, the site has drawn more than 114,000 visitors.

BringChange2Mind.org also has an active fan page on Facebook. With almost 5,000 fans, it has become an inspiring forum for people eager to speak out about their experience with mental health issues and their relationships with people affected by the illness.

“When you read the posts,” says Dudek, “you can feel the weight being lifted from people who have kept silent about their own illness or that of a loved one. There’s a tremendous yearning to express feelings, thoughts and frustrations about the unexposed realities of mental illness, and this campaign makes that possible.”

Future initiatives for BringChange2Mind.org include selling T-shirts emblazoned with different diagnoses, such as those worn in the first PSA, and a series of public service announcements, each perhaps focusing on a specific illness.

Adds Close, “BringChange2Mind.org will connect people to whatever they need: help, community, education, or a chance to join one of the organizations. It is just the beginning, but I hope it will give people the courage to talk about mental illness, to lose their fear of the words, to conquer shame and stigma. None of us should ever feel marginalized, stigmatized or alone.”

2014 Hilton Humanitarian Prize Winner

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