By Anne Thompson, NBC News chief environmental affairs correspondent
If something goes wrong with your body... you break a bone, get the flu, or something more serious, sympathy and help abounds. But what if something goes wrong with your brain?
Mental illness affects one in six Americans and yet it is still an illness people are reluctant to talk about, let alone admit that they have.
Tonight, we will show you how actress Glenn Close is working to change the perception of mental illness and erase the stigma that all too often attaches. She is operating on two levels. The first and most public is the one we are most familiar with, Close is the force behind a new public service announcement with the slogan "Bring Change To Mind." She convinced Oscar winning director Ron Howard of "A Beautiful Mind" (the story of Nobel Prize winner Dr. John Nash and his struggle with mental illness) to direct the 30 second spot. It is shot in New York's Grand Central Terminal and set to John Mayer's song "Say." It is beautiful, moving and packs a punch as you meet people with mental illness and their families, including Jessie Close and her sister Glenn.
That's the second level. This is a cause that is personal for Glenn. The daughters of a physician, Glenn says there was no vocabulary in her family for mental illness, even though she says Jessie showed signs of obsessive behavior as a child. The youngest, Jessie lived for years swinging from mania and depression until she was finally diagnosed as bipolar at age 47. Now age 56, Jessie is living with mental illness. "I take care of my illness," Jessie says. "My illness doesn't take care of me." Jessie is a writer with three children. She's just finished her first book, co-authored with her son Calen who also has a mental illness.
What they both hope to achieve with this PSA is to remove the stigma that accompanies mental illness. It is not a character flaw. It is an illness and they want people to understand that those afflicted can live very productive lives if they get the right treatment and medications. They hope that one day society realizes people with mental illness can recover and live the same way that people do with cancer, diabetes and addictions.
Glenn volunteers at Fountain House here in New York. Fountain House is a place where those with mental illness can find support and resources to get housing and jobs. Glenn says she did not want to be a celebrity in a ball gown showing up at a charity event. Instead she wanted to "dig deep," to understand and to figure out what she could do to help. After a couple of years of volunteering, she came up with the PSA and it was shot this summer.
Glenn says Jessie is her hero. Jessie says Glenn is a great woman. Watch tonight and you will see why.