Mental health advocate Glenn Close talks at day 1 of three-day "Together Against Stigma Conference" MHCC hosts world’s largest international conference on eliminating mental health stigma at the conference centre in Ottawa, June 4, 2012.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
OTTAWA - Glenn Close says she first clued in to her sister's struggle with bipolar disorder after hearing threats of suicide.
Now armed with increased awareness, the American actress is working with her family to spread awareness about mental illness and the stigma surrounding it.
"Listen and pay attention...really pay attention," Close said. "It was when (my sister) Jess came to me and said, 'I can't stop thinking about killing myself, I need help,' I did."
Close, her sister Jessica and her nephew Calen were in Ottawa Monday to help kick off an international mental health conference.
"Celebrity can wear off very fast and I think you can lose your credibility very fast," Close told the gathering organized by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the World Psychiatric Association."We need heroes like my family members."
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt also shared her personal struggle with postpartum depression at the Ottawa conference. Raitt said she struggled in 2004 following the birth of her son.
"For me...it was driving on the highway, back from work and it was raining, an Avril Lavigne song comes on and I start to cry," Raitt said. "I realized I'm having problem and I made an appointment the next day to go see my GP."
Raitt said employers need to accommodate workers with mental health struggles.
"The message I want to give is it is OK to talk about it in the workplace," she said.
In May, the Mental Health Commission of Canada released the country's first blueprint for a national mental health strategy. The report features more than 100 recommendations for change but there continues to be a huge funding gap.
"There's no question, we have called in the report for an increase in the percentage of health spending that goes to mental health to increase from 7% to 9% over the course of 10 years," Dr. David Goodbloom said. "We are going to work with all three levels of government to translate that into reality."
But Goodbloom said the fight involves more than money. "There is a role for every Canadian to play in their home,
in their workplace, in their school and also with their member of Parliament or their provincial or territorial representative to be a voice for change," he said.