Close sisters discuss mental illness in lecture event

By Katelyn Freil, News Editor

Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning actress Glenn Close and her sister Jessie presented a lecture on breaking the stigmas behind mental illness Tuesday evening at EJ Thomas Hall.

Glenn and Jessie have lived with mental illness for most of their lives. Jessie has dealt with bipolar disorder since she was young, but was not properly diagnosed until 2004.

Together, Glenn and Jessie have been traveling to educate people on mental illness so that others will begin to feel more comfortable talking about it. By doing this, they believe mental illness will become easier to recognize and diagnose.

“It’s only at the grassroots level that we’ll reach the tipping point [of understanding mental illness],” Glenn said during the lecture.

Glenn started an organization in 2009 called Bring Change 2 Mind. The mission of this organization is “to end the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness through widely distributed Public Education Materials based on the latest scientific insights and measured for effectiveness” and “to act as a portal to a broad coalition of organizations that provide service, screening, information, support and treatment of mental illness,” according to its website.

Glenn and Jessie said they travel together because it is just as much about teaching those around mental illness as it is teaching those with mental illness. The lecture was titled “Mental Illness: A Family Affair” because the sisters had other family members with mental illness who suffered. Jessie’s son Calen has also been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is mix of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Jessie said controlling mental illness is not always easy, but that hasn’t dampened her spirit.

“We’re both just how we’re meant to be,” she said of herself and Calen.

For more information about Bring Change 2 Mind, visit

The event was presented by The Dorothy Garrett Martin Memorial Delta Gamma Lectureship on Values and Ethics and the Honors College. It was sponsored by the Office of the President, Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost, and EJ Thomas Performing Arts Hall.