Glenn Close still remembers the day that her younger sister approached her with a terrifying secret: “I can’t stop thinking about killing myself,” Jessie Close confided to Glenn roughly 10 years ago.
After doctors diagnosed Jessie with bipolar disorder, and Jessie’s son, Calen Pick, with schizoaffective disorder, Close was determined to learn more about mental illness. She volunteered at the New York recovery center Fountain House, and in 2010 started the nonprofit Bring Change 2 Mind to raise awareness.
“We thought the best thing to do was work against the stigma that surrounds mental illness,” Close says, noting that one in four people are affected by it. “It’s a chronic illness like anything else.”
Bring Change 2 Mind aims to start a conversation. Close tapped her friend Ron Howard to direct the org’s first PSA, which stars the Oscar-nominated actress alongside Jessie, as well as other people wearing the names of their diseases on T-shirts. Since then, an estimated 1 billion have viewed online the PSAs, which have featured Wayne Brady and NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall sharing their stories. The Close sisters have used many forums to talk about their mission, from a Washington, D.C., summit to NPR to People magazine.
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Close says she recently had an epiphany when she saw her nephew. “He would wear these dark glasses. He had this frightening look in his eyes. I was telling him, six months ago, he had lost that look. He said, ‘Do you know what that was? I was terrified.’ ”
Jessie says she couldn’t be more proud of her big sister, adding, “I would say Glenn is really my hero as far as stepping up to the plate and doing something about the stigma.”
Adds Pamela Harrington, the executive director of Bring Change 2 Mind: “She was really one of the first public figures to speak out in mental health advocacy world. She’s been a really great beacon of hope for so many people.”