Award-winning actress Glenn Close will be a keynote speaker at an international conference on reducing stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness being held in Ottawa June 4–6.
The 5th International Stigma Conference—Together Against Stigma: Changing How We See Mental Illness—will bring together mental health researchers, policy makers, and service users from around the world.
In 2009, Close helped launch Bring Change 2 Mind, a U.S. based anti-stigma organization that works to remove misconceptions about mental illness.
Close’s younger sister, Jessie, and Jessie’s son, Calen, both live with mental illness. Fifty-six-year-old Jessie was diagnosed as bipolar at age 47. The illness began when she was a teenager but went years undiagnosed. Calen suffers from schizophrenia.
Jessie and Calen will also be guest speakers at the conference.
“That there is mental illness in my family puts us squarely at the heart of the global human family,” said Close in a press release.
“I am honoured to be a part of this year’s International Stigma Conference and am thrilled to also be celebrating the formation of Bring Change 2 Mind’s distinguished Advisory Council, who will aid us in translating the science of stigma and discrimination into powerful, informed messaging.”
Close, who has received six Oscar nominations, three Emmy Awards, two Golden Globes, and three Tony Awards, is also known for her role as a mental health advocate.
This year she received the National Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation’s Leadership Award for her work with Bring Change 2 Mind.
The Stigma Conference is hosted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the World Psychiatric Association Scientific Section on Stigma and Mental Illness.
In welcoming Close to the conference, Micheal Pietrus, director of MHCC’s anti-stigma initiative Opening Minds, noted that “her commitment to fighting stigma and removing misconceptions about mental illness is inspiring to us all.”
Opening Minds is the largest systematic effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Canadian history, according to the MHCC.
The initiative is working to evaluate anti-stigma programs across Canada to determine their effectiveness at changing negative attitudes and behaviours related to mental illnesses. The successful programs are being replicated elsewhere in the country.
To decrease stigma, Opening Minds is also working with journalism schools and the media to identify myths and misconceptions associated with mental illness.
More than seven million Canadians will experience a mental health problem this year.
According to the MHCC, researchers have found that stigma is a major barrier preventing more than two-thirds of people with mental illnesses from seeking help, and “Many people living with a mental illness say the stigma they face is often worse than the illness itself.”
The Ottawa conference aims to serve as a catalyst that will mobilize and focus actions to fight the stigma that surrounds mental health problems and illnesses.
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