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Glenn Close judges mental illness awareness contest in partnership with IU

  • April 29, 2015

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By Lauren Slavin

When Calen Pick came home from the hospital, he didn’t have any friends.

If Pick had broken his arm, his friends might have signed his cast, or helped him carry his books to class. Some might have sent “get well soon” cards and balloons.

But Pick didn’t break his arm – Pick was admitted to a hospital after a breaking point in his mental illness. Pick has schizoaffective disorder, which causes periods of depression and manic behavior.

His friends didn’t want to see him, and neither did their parents. Pick’s mother, Jessie Close, has bipolar disorder, and parents were afraid to send their children to her house.

“I watched my whole family’s quality of life really affected by stigma,” said actress Glenn Close, who is Jessie’s sister and Calen’s aunt. “You need support. You need the support of your family, of your community.”

Close, who has won three Emmy awards, three Tony awards and been nominated for six Academy Awards, is at Indiana University this week to speak at the IU Cinema’s Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture Series, and to judge the College Toolbox Project anti-stigma campaign contest.

The College Toolbox Project is a partnership between IU and Close’s nonprofit organization, Bring Change 2 Mind, which aims to end discrimination based on mental illness. In 2013, Close shared her family member’s experiences with stigma surrounding their mental illnesses at the College of Arts and Sciences Themester lecture.

Bring Change 2 Mind and IU then began planning a competition for students to create a multimedia campaign that would educate students starting their freshman year about mental health stigma, and how to help themselves and others struggling with mental health issues.

“We saw how eager the kids were to talk about mental health,” said Pamela Harrington, executive director of Bring Change 2 Mind. “We want the students to create the program so they can speak to the wants and needs on their college campus.”

Students could create video or audio public service announcements, print and promotional campaign materials or plan anti-stigma events to take place on a college campus. Contest winners could receive cash prizes of $1,000, and a trip to New York City to present their campaign at the third annual Bring Change 2 Mind gala. The winners of the contest will be selected and announced later this week.

Close hopes Bring Change 2 Mind can use the winning campaign on college campuses across the country. Young adults are particularly vulnerable to mental illness, she said, and the stresses of school and coping with mental health stigma can make recovery difficult for those struggling with their mental health.

With the resources the College Toolbox Project provides, Close hopes the new generation of college students can feel supported by their friends and community in a way her family members never were.

“It’s a totally groundbreaking project,” Close said. “When they leave, they’ll really understand about stigma. They’ll be the ambassadors for that."