Powerful Stories of Hope

Jessie Close, the younger sister of movie star Glenn Close, appeared before a packed audience of more than 150 people in September to talk about how society has come a long way in accepting and understanding the realities of mental health and substance abuse disorders – and how there is still a long way to go.

“The only way to get through hell is to keep going,” said Close, quoting Winston Churchill to convey the enormous struggles that people with mental health disorders live with every day. Close was the keynote speaker at a special National Dialogue on Mental Health forum, sponsored by the Behavioral Health Network, at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford. The forum was moderated by Patricia Rehmer, Hartford HealthCare senior vice president for behavioral health, and featured three other panelists with first-hand experience with the issues of mental health and substance abuse.

Close spoke passionately about the decades she lived under the cloud of substance abuse and depression, never fully understanding what she was struggling with. Her struggle with alcoholism hit a low point in her late 40s, she said, recounting an incident in which she seriously considered using the gun in her husband’s truck to kill herself. A short while later, during a family get-together in Wyoming, she confided to her famous big sister that she was hearing voices repeatedly telling her to kill herself.

Jessie Close speaks about her life with mental illness at the Conversation on Mental Illness with Jessie Close at Hoffman Auditorium at the University of St Joseph in West Hartford.

It was then that Glenn Close made sure that Jessie got proper medical care, which led to a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder and that finally connected Jessie with proper medication and treatment. Eleven years later, Jessie credits her newfound happiness to her medication and her passion for inspiring others with her story.

“When I sobered up I didn’t realize how big a favor I was doing for myself,” Jessie said

  • “The only way to get through hell is to keep going.”

    - Jessie Close, quoting Winston Churchill

The forum was part of the National Dialogue on Mental Health that was created in the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook and is meant to continue the conversation about mental health issues in local communities. The Institute of Living and the Behavioral Health Network have been leaders in carrying on the conversation, and September’s forum marked the 20th National Dialogue event that the BHN has hosted over the past three years.