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Glenn Close keeps gifting us with such beautiful nuggets from her life. Last week, it was announced that Glenn will be participating in Oprah and Prince Harry’s AppleTV series about mental health, The Me You Don’t See. Now Glenn is opening up more about her lifelong mental health struggles. In a conversation with People, Glenn and her younger sister, Jessie, talk about their lifelong struggles with mental health. This was in conjunction with People’s Let’s Talk About initiative and Glenn’s mental health organization, Bring Change to Mind. Glenn told People that depression and mood disorders run in her family. However no one in her family talked about it. She also said that she has suffered from low grade depression. Glenn hopes to destigmatize mental illness. Below are more details from People:
“On my mom’s side, there was a lot of depression,” says Glenn, 74, of her family’s history with mental illness. “Her uncle had schizophrenia. Nobody ever talked about. I did know that her half brother had committed suicide and that her own mother was depressed. She was also depressed and took meds for it.”
“It wasn’t even on the radar when I was growing up,” adds Jessie, 67. “No matter how I behaved, no one could ever imagine it was a mental illness. It just wasn’t part of our conversation.”
That all changed by 2010 when Glenn cofounded Bring Change to Mind, (BC2M) a nonprofit with a mission to raise awareness and end the stigma and silence surrounding mental illness.
According to Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, Professor of Psychology at UC Berkeley and the scientific advisor for BC2M, mental illness results from a complex interplay of genes and environment. “With anxiety and depression, genes contribute about one third of the risk, for schizophrenia, about two thirds and for bipolar disorder, above 80 percent,” he says. Environmental factors, he adds, also play a part, such as “early trauma, life stress and positive vs negative mindsets.”
Knowing this, says Hinshaw, “can help us see that mental illness is not a ‘character defect.’ Most of all, we need humanization through the telling of real life stories of coping and recovery.”
Along the way, she has learned how we are all affected by the health of our brain. Over ten years ago, Glenn notes, “I went through a series of tests at Columbia and they said, ‘You’re depressed’ and I thought I would not label myself as a depressed person but I think what I’ve lived with, probably a good portion of my life, is a low grade depression that can sometimes feel like a mist or a veil but you’ve gotten so used to living with it — that it’s not something you think of much. I take a daily dose of anti- depressants, not a huge dose, and it helps.””
I am loving all the talks around mental health and fitness during During Mental Health Awareness Month. However mental health should be a topic of conversation all the time, not just during the month of May. I come from a family with a genetic history of depression and other mood disorders. It is wonderful to see people talk about their struggles as it normalizes these conversations. I get even more excited when Black celebrities talk about mental health as these conversations are can be taboo within the Black community. I love how Glenn and her sister Jessie said that having mental health issues and mental health disorders has nothing to do with your character. Mental disorders are connected to not only our environment but to our genetics. The more people understand that there is nothing to be ashamed of, the less isolated they’ll feel. I, like Glenn, have suffered from low-grade depression since I was a kid. It took until my late twenties to be diagnosed and come to terms with it. For the longest time I was in denial, which led to me making poor life choices and isolating myself.
The more we talk about an issue the more we can shine a light on it. This is the only way we can heal and stop our familial cycles. I look forward to hearing more about Glenn’s and People’s Let’s Talk About It initiative. Until then, please take care of yourself Celebitches and don’t be afraid to reach out if you are not feeling well. Let your friends and family help you as much they can, and allow yourself to be surrounded by love and support. Seek a professional who can help you identify the issues and build a tool kit to cope with them.
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