Actress Glenn Close joined forces with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Wednesday to raise awareness for a bill to strengthen mental health care in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting.
Drawing on firsthand knowledge of the struggle people with mental health issues face daily, Close—a longtime advocate for erasing the stigma associated with those issues – spoke about her sister’s diagnosis with bipolar disorder at age 15.
“Our family had no vocabulary for mental illness,” Close said.
“It’s incredible to me that it’s still so, so difficult for people to talk about it,” she said, “and so our passion is to make mental illness as easy to talk about as diabetes or cancer so that it’s part of the human condition and it’s something that should unite us rather than something that we need to whisper about behind closed doors or feel fearful and ashamed. But the truth is the stigma is huge, still.”
The Excellence in Mental Health bill, which would expand access to mental health care services and quality of treatment, is backed by Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. They are pushing to introduce the bill with bipartisan support in February or March.
Traveling across the country, Close said she’s noticed “that there is a feeling that [people] are waiting for permission to start the conversation.”
“If they understand their representatives in D.C. care about them and understand them, I think that’s going to change the climate in this country,” Close said.
Blunt pointed to the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 students and six adults dead last December, along with a string of other recent tragedies, as a reason for imminent action by the Senate.