Glenn Close helps raise public understanding
of mental illness (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Wednesday morning, October 21st, actress Glenn Close appeared on Good Morning America along with her sister, Jessie Close, who has bipolar disorder as she and her family reach out to help remove the stigma associated with mental illness.
Mental illness has long been a misunderstood and feared illness. Perhaps part of the reason for the fear associated with it is that people fear getting a mental disorder themselves. Some choose to label it as psychosomatic or something that willpower can overcome because then, if they are strong enough, they will never suffer from it (or so they assure themselves). The truth is everyone suffers from it, in one way or another. If you don't experience the trial yourself then you will, eventually, experience it through a loved one. No one is immune to the effects of mental illness and so raising public awareness and understanding is a huge step toward helping those who struggle with it.
Special Needs Examiner, Lisa Richard, has two children who have Down syndrome. She has a wonderful article on "people first" in which she points out that she doesn't have handicapped children, she has children with a handicap. Lisa says, "When referring to people who have a disability do not identify them by the disability. Zoe and Camden have Down syndrome but it is not who they are. For example I cannot tell you how many times I have heard my children referred to as those 'Down syndrome kids'. Or those who have autism as 'those autistic kids'. I was recently reading an article in Time magazine that repeatedly had them making reference to autistic adults. They are adults who have been diagnosed with autism! Autism does not define them! (read more)" All of us have handicaps of some sort, her children are people first as are all people with a handicap. Just changing the way it is worded changes perceptions.
Mental illness can also be viewed this way. You do not say, "I am bi-polar" or, "She is bi-polar." Rather, you recognize that you are a human being with a heart and a soul, a contributing member of society with many gifts and talents that you share, who also happens to have bi-polar disorder. Everyone struggles with different trials in life, no one is immune. Just as you would not say, "I am cancer" or, "I am kidney disease," you need to remember you are not mental illness but struggle with it. This simple shift in the way you speak will help to increase acceptance and understanding of the disease.
Glenn Close, and her sister are reaching out to help increase people's awareness and understanding of the different mental disorders that people suffer from. Glenn Close has a nonprofit organization called Bring Change 2 Mind. Per their website; "1 in 6 adults and almost 1 in 10 children suffer from a diagnosable mental illness. Yet, for many, the stigma associated with the illness, can be as great a challenge as the disease itself. This is where the misconceptions stop. This is where bias comes to an end. This is where we change lives. Because this is where we Bring Change 2 Mind." Bring Change 2 Mind's mission is to provide information for those who have a mental illness and for those who have misconceptions about mental illness (read more).
You can help by speaking out. Their website says it best, "What is something the other 5 out of 6 Americans can help us do? Spread the word. Walk the walk. Share this site and these videos. After all, the best way to fight stigma is to facilitate interaction with people who have mental illness."