Glenn Close

The actress who has played a Dalmatian-skinning mastermind (101 Dalmatians), an obsessed mistress (Fatal Attraction), and a high stakes litigator (Damages TV series), will be in Wine Country Sept. 11 for the Staglin Family Music Festival to support mental health research.

Close has a sister and nephew who struggle with mental illness and her compassion for them inspired her to support Garen and Shari Staglin. Close knows the Staglins well; together they launched www.bringchange2mind.org to help erase the stigma associated with mental illness.

As for the music festival, it has raised an impressive $95 million over the years and it’s a hot ticket for those who like to pair goodwill with cult wine and music. Vintners of boutique wineries will be pouring bottlings that are in limited supply, followed by a concert by country music singer Dwight Yoakam. (http://www.music-festival.org.)

Q&A with Glenn Close

Q: When did you first get involved in helping the Stagins with their event?

A: I met the Staglins through a friend when I decided to do something in the mental health arena.  They then came on as co-founders of BringChange2Mind.org.  We all support each other.  I am thrilled to be going to the Staglin Festival this year for the first time.

My sister has bipolar disorder and my nephew has schizo-affective disorder.  Of course, if you see someone, who you love profoundly, suffering, you want to help in any way you can.

Q: What was it like growing up with a sister who suffered with her mental health? What was the biggest challenge for her? How did it inspire your compassion?

A: My family had no language for mental illness. Looking back we all recognized early signs of something that would eventually be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, but as she was growing up, sadly, we thought it was just a question of her pulling herself together and getting on with it.  Finally when my sister and her son were both diagnosed it was the beginning of my whole family’s education.

Q: How pervasive and deep is the stigma that people who suffer from mental health face?

A: I’ve met some people who think that the stigma against mental illness is lessening but I am not sure that’s true, though I think we are making headway.  It has taken two wars for us to face the facts about post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.  That so many of our wounded warriors are coming back with these two, invisible signature wounds of the wars has alerted people to the fact that we need to start talking about mental illness as easily as we talk about any other disease.  I think the huge challenge we face is to recognize the fact that stigma is toxic, affecting not only those with mental illness but their friends and families as well.  We all just need to start talking about it without fear.  People living with mental illness tend to stigmatize themselves, because they confront so much stigma and are afraid to talk about their illness.

Q: How is Bring Change 2 Mind set up to combat that? What is your message and how successful have you been with your organization?

A: BringChange2Mind’s message is about acceptance and de-stigmatization for people who live with mental illness, those who love them and those who are simply misinformed.

We have taken a multifaceted approach in combating the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Our response team is a group of amazing volunteers who answer voluminous e-mails and foster a “virtual clubhouse” community.  Our other efforts focus on creating multi-media campaigns with a mental health focus, such as our flagship PSA involving support from Ron Howard and John Mayer.  Our organization measures success by the number of people we’re able to reach, our ability to change society’s view towards mental illnesses, and the positive anecdotal feedback we receive.

In the near future, we hope to serve as the connective tissue for the many remarkable mental health organizations in the country. In doing so, we aim to create a world in which those who struggle with a mental illness can live without fear and openly receive the help they need to manage their disease.  In other words, we hope to keep the 55 million Americans with a mental illness – alive – and well.

Q: Why have you made it a priority to come and support the Staglins?

A: I feel, very simply, that mental illness is about family, not only our immediate families who might be touched by it, but our global family. It’s part of being human and it doesn’t make sense to me that we don’t recognize it, embrace it, and support those living with it.

Q: Is mental health your main way to give back to society or do you have other organizations you also spend time serving?

A: There are two other organizations that I actively support.  Panthera (website www.panthera.org) and DogTags program PBB (www.puppiesbehindbars.org), which teaches prison inmates to train service dogs for returning war veterans.

Q: What has been the best part of your involvement with the television series “Damages”? What are your next acting projects?

A: The best part of my involvement with Damages is getting to play a highly complex and fascinating character and to serve our spectacular writers.  My next film project will be a small independent film (Albert Nobbs) which I am writing, producing and acting in.

Q: What has been your most favorite role and why?

A: This may cause your eyeballs to roll, but my favorite role is to be mother to my daughter Annie.  Nothing professionally has come close.

Q: What do you find most striking about being an actress? You once said “I love the chemistry that can be created onstage between the actors and the audience. It’s molecular even, the energies that can go back and forth. I stared in theatre, and when I first went into the movies I felt that my energy was going to blow out the camera.” Do you still feel this way?

A: Yes

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What: 16th Annual Staglin Music Festival for Mental Health

When: Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where: Staglin Family Vineyard, 1570 Bella Oaks Lane, Rutherford, CA  94573

Details: Special Guests attending the Symposium, Reception and Concert

SCHEDULE:

12:00 pm: Scientific Symposium

Featuring keynote speaker and researcher, USC’s Provost Professor Pat Levitt, Director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, and hear from the 2010 Rising Star research award winners about their cutting-edge projects.

2:00 pm: Wine Tasting Reception

Featuring hors d’oeuvres by Chef Richard Reddington of Restaurant Redd and an exclusive tasting of wines from over 70 superstar wineries in the winery caves.

3:30 pm: Concert Performance

Featuring the country-rock classics of 2-time Grammy winner Dwight Yoakam, with comedian Bob Sarlatte as the event’s Emcee. As a Special Guest of the Music Festival, we invite you to sit in the Reserved Seating rows sectioned off closer to the stage.