Jessie Close, a mental health advocate and Co-Founder of BringChange2Mind.org has a dream. “One day, I will go into a high school and ask who has bi-polar disorder and no one will be ashamed to raise their hand,” she said.
On Tuesday January 13th, Jessie brought her message of hope for a stigma-free society to Fountain House, where she celebrated the launch of her book Resilience. The book is co-authored by journalist Pete Early.
Speaking before a standing room only audience on a cold, January night in New York, Jessie read passages from her book which chronicles her life story of surviving and thriving with mental illness.
In Jessie’s case, she and her sister, actress, Glenn Close, chose to speak publically and honestly about their family struggles. Additionally, Jessie’s children champion the rights of dignity and fair treatment for everyone affected. Jessie’s son Calen, with schizoaffective disorder, is on the forefront of advocacy.
Isolation, a common thread in the lives of people with mental illness, was candidly addressed by Jessie, during her talk. She shared how while growing up, the subject was taboo and never discussed. We also learned that the topic never came up during any of her marriages. An opportunity to become healthy only occurred with the introduction of understanding doctors, proper medical treatment and ultimately, a loving sister and children willing to take the journey to wellness themselves.
The rapt assemblage gathered at Fountain House, fielded questions and also shared their own stories of hope and inspiration.
After the event Jessie honored me by quietly sharing that she is a stronger person for having the courage to say she has an illness…by owning and accepting what she has, it does not control her. I believe Jessie Close’s message is a universal one, in that our character derives from our heart and not our circumstances.
Alan Gary is a Fountain House member who writes about the arts, pop culture, literature and mental and physical health. He’s written for Barron’s, Broadway World.com, Friends of the Library and more. He holds a B.A. in Communications and Masters in English, both from Fairleigh Dickinson University.