Glenn Close has spent the last decade working hard to get people to open up about mental illness.
“Everyone is connected in some way to mental illness, whether it’s a friend or a family member,” the actor tells Variety from her home in Montana. “The fact that it’s still so hard for people to talk about is tragic.”
Close co-founded Bring Change to Mind (BC2M) in 2010 to help end the stigma around mental health issues. Her sister, Jessie, lives with bipolar disorder and her nephew, Calen, has schizophrenia. “When we started it, we didn’t know what we were doing,” she said. “We just knew there was a need.”
The group’s eighth annual gala, Revels & Revelations, will be held virtually on Oct. 1. The event will honor Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and their children Trey, Jaden and Willow with the Robin Williams Legacy of Laughter Award.
Williams’ son Zak told Variety that he and his sister Zelda chose the Smiths because they take “philanthropy and charitable works very seriously while being lighthearted and appreciating the medium of laughter and humor through it all.”
Hosted by Conan O’Brien, Revels & Revelations will feature performances and appearances by John Mayer, Karamo Brown, Wayne Brady, Paul Shaffer, Jonathan Groff, Jordin Sparks, Ron Howard, Cyndi Lauper, Alanis Morissette and the cast of Broadway’s “Jagged Little Pill.”
The evening benefits BC2M’s high school programs and public awareness campaigns. Several students will also make an appearance during the gala. Even though the event has to take place online this year, Close believes having the celebration through a screen is better than not having it at all.
“One of the reasons why people are finding COVID so difficult is that we feed as a species on looking into each other’s eyes, we need connection. You basically die without connection,” she said. “It’s hard to find that kind real profound connection when you’re looking into a screen. It’s something for us to remember when we can go back to being together.”
Williams, 37, said he believes the stigma around mental health issues has lessened in the years since his father died in 2014 by suicide, which was partially attributed to him having Lewy body dementia.
“I have great faith in the advocacy and awareness of Gen Z and Gen Alpha,” he said. “They’re very attuned kids and young adults who are focused on making a difference in the world.”
When asked if she has a message for people who may be struggling right now, especially because of isolation due to the pandemic, Close said, “I hear you. I see you. I’m here to help. How can I help?”