When Jessie and Glenn Close founded their mental illness nonprofit, Bring Change 2 Mind in 2010, all of the focus was on Jessie’s battle with bipolar disorder. Glenn was there to lend her name and support to the effort, but I’m not sure anyone imagined she too suffered. Silently.
But, according to a new article in Mashable earlier this week, Glenn was first diagnosed with depression in 2008. Which makes her efforts to help launch Bring Change 2 Mind all the more laudable.
Glenn Close’s depression disclosure is a part of a series called #MindfulAllies this week that Mashable is promoting. The series is meant to highlight “real stories from people who experience mental illness.” (We actually do this every day here at Psych Central, too, and encourage you to check out many of our bloggers who write from first-hand experience with mental illness.)
While Close’s story may not be unique, her speaking out about depression may help others see that it’s not something that needs to be hidden any longer:
“I never realized that maybe I could get a little help,” says actress Glenn Close. We’re talking about her own experience with depression, an illness she was diagnosed with only eight years ago.
It was truly a surprise. For years, the Hollywood legend thought she probably had Attention Deficit Disorder, which can cause hyperactivity, impulsiveness or problems with concentration.
“I felt this inertia that would come over me,” she says. “You think of something and it just seems too much, too hard. That’s how it manifested in me.”
Today, Close, 68, says she takes a low dosage of medication to help with depression, which is considered a very treatable condition.
In Close’s piece, she recounts a sad reality that most families can relate to — the silence surrounding family members’ struggles with mental illness. Depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, to name just a few.
What happens when families go into denial and clam up about their own challenges with mental illness? Sadly, a lot of bad things. People fail to get treatment, or fail to get adequate treatment (relying solely on antidepressants, for instance, for severe depression). And sometimes they even end up taking their own life. That’s what happened to my childhood best friend, who suffered from undiagnosed depression and ended up ending his life.
Close’s story is more positive, as both her and her sister came to the realization they each suffered from a different kind of mental illness. They sought out professional treatment for it and started a fantastic nonprofit to help destroy the silence that keeps so many people living in hopelessness and darkness.
I have learned that I have been living with mild depression for probably most of my life. When I couldn’t concentrate, overwhelmed by the simplest tasks — wheels spinning — I thought I had some form of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Upon being tested, I was told that I was depressed.
But how could that be? I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the history of depression in my family. Our DNA connects us for better or for worse. The human brain is a magnificent organ — fragile and mind-bogglingly complex. Imbalances are part of the human condition. They say one in four of us is touched in some way by a mental health issue. That fact alone should make us compassionate and empathetic. Now, as I walk down the street in New York or board a plane or go buy a quart of milk, I look at those around me and think, “One in four.”
Close is talking about the statistic that often gets bandied about — that one in four Americans suffer from a mental illness in any given year.1 I think this number helps people understand that mental illness is not something that just happens to other people.
One in four means someone in your immediate family likely has a mental illness. One in four means that out of your close friends, at least one or two of them also grapple with mental illness. Did you know that? Did you think to ask?
When angry politicians rail about the “mentally ill” needing to have their liberties taken away from them — whether via forced psychiatric treatment (now called “assisted outpatient therapy”) or their Second Amendment rights — keep this in mind. They’re not just talking about Hollywood movie “crazy” people. They’re talking about normal folks like you and I who may also have dealt with mental illness at one time or another in their lives.
It’s so refreshing to see and hear people talk about mental illness in a positive way. It makes me hopeful that, one day in our society, we’ll actually be able to have a national, thoughtful conversation about better helping people with mental illness. Rather than pretending the problem doesn’t exist, denying treatment facilities be built in your local community, or foisting it off onto our prison system.
We applaud the work that Jessie and Glenn Close, as well all of the good people who’ve worked on the nonprofit Bring Change 2 Mind. We hope you read the full article about Glenn Close’s journey and consider joining their awesome cause and efforts on the Bring Change 2 Mind website.
For further reading: Why Glenn Close wants to talk to you about her depression
- That statistic is big and scary, but it also includes many people who have milder forms of disorders that may not even need treatment. [↩]