Glenn Close sets back Disability Rights 50 Years

Glenn Close has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Tony, and has been nominated for an Oscar, but she still can’t seem to get a simple PSA right. She and her sister Jessie, who has bi-polar disorder, have recently launched a new campaign to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness- but are they doing more harm than good?

The main PSA for “Bring Change 2 Mind,” does anything but. It shows a crowded train station with hundreds of people milling through, with a few in white t-shirts. These t-shirts have titles and labels on them – such as from sister, better half, to schizophrenia to bi-polar. The purpose, I’m assuming, is to put a face to the diagnosis…

But, I have a real problem with this set up. You have PEOPLE wearing labels – isn’t that what disability rights activists have been fighting for years to overcome? When these individuals walk through the train station, we don’t see them as people, we see them as diagnoses. I don’t know Glenn Close’s sister’s name, but I know what her mental illness is…

When did we stop trying to put the person first???

And what about the people who are walking with the diagnosed? Their shirts have roles written on them- sister, battle buddy, better half. But the schizophrenics, depressed, and bi-polar  are sisters, brothers, better halves, battle buddies…..are they not?

How does this video show us that people with mental illness are real people too?

It’s doesn’t.

We are not learning anything about them as people, about their lives, their daily struggles… just their diagnosis. And in my opinion, that’s damaging.

Contrast that with a stigma reduction campaign I reviewed just a few days ago from Scotland, whose tagline is “See Me” (as in, not my diagnosis). In this campaign, the PSAs share the commonality of the experiences of the people with mental illness, AND show how the people who care for them helped them out:

At no point is anyone labeled. Instead, their situation is described, concrete things to do are suggested, and in the end mental illness doesn’t seem like something we need to freak out about! It doesn’t need to show famous people donning “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts.

The only redeeming factor of the “Bring Change 2 Mind” video is that at the end of the piece, the t-shirts fade to colors, and they meld into the crowd. This is a nice touch, but only goes to undo the damage that has already been done. We haven’t gained any ground.

The more I think about it, the more I hate this campaign. The tag  line is “Change a mind about mental illness, and you can change a life.”

But how, Glenn? How do we change a mind? By wearing diagnosis t-shirts?

This campaign gives us nothing but a famous person, revealing the “skeletons in her closet,” set to a John Mayer soundtrack.

(The press that the campaign is getting is equally sickening…..but I’ll save that for part deux, tomorrow)

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3 responses to “Glenn Close sets back Disability Rights 50 Years

  1. Very interesting. Good contrast of videos. I would definitely choose the Scottish video as doing a better campaign PSA. I think that the celebrity factor for the USA goes too far to the point that as long as we have a celebrity then the campaign should be great no matter what. But that is not always the case and most people would not be as intelligent as you were in catching those details but rather would just think wow Glenn Close has a bipolar sister and not even acknowledge that the campaign was about eliminating the stigma of mental illness. I might have even fallen victim had I not had this great analysis and the Scottish campaign video to compare it to. Can’t wait for part duex of the story!

    P.S. Have you seen the documentary “Poliwood”. Just saw an article about it and seems like it would tie quite well into this story not about mental health but about the use of celebrity endorsements and how the celebrity’s really feel about the causes and campaigns they support. Seemed very interesting and something I want to check out!

  2. YIKES! Labeling people with mental disabilities? Reminds me of WWII era-Germany-when Jews wore yellow patches.

  3. I think the label is more about not being ashamed to say that you have the diagnosis than it being your sole identity. I’m bipolar and that’s my take on it anyway. Have you seen the new billboard? Imagine if You Got Blamed For Having Cancer

    I think it’s great

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