*President Obama turned to Hollywood for help in raising awareness of mental illness, beginning with a White House summit on Monday with Vice President Joe Biden, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. They were joined by two entertainment industry stalwarts with personal connections to mental health issues: actress Glenn Close and actor Bradley Cooper.
Close, who co-founded the nonprofit awareness group Bring Change 2 Mind, has said she first became aware of mental health problems when she starred in “Fatal Attraction” in 1987. Her sister Jessie grew up with severe bouts of depression and tried to commit suicide several times before being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Her nephew Calen has also been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. She’s also the narrator of a PBS documentary that started airing last week in California, “A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness.”
Actor Bradley Cooper acknowledged his connection with mental illness is more remote, starting with his role as a bipolar man in “Silver Linings Playbook.”
“I’m sort of here by accident,” he said. “It’s not that I didn’t know about mental illness. I think it’s just that I just didn’t see it as a part of my life.”
It’s the first time he’s been back to D.C. with the mental-health message since the height of the movie’s Oscar campaign, when Cooper met with Joe Biden on the topic and held forth at a Center for American Progress forum on mental health.
The goal of the summit is to start a national conversation about mental health, removing any stigma around it so afflicted people will feel free to seek help. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) and the California Mental Health Services Authority are teaming up to give movie and TV producers tools to more accurately portray mental health challenges. Part of that effort is a rollout of public service announcements prepared by Ogilvy Public Relations. The PSAs, backed by the NAB, will air on 7,500 member radio and television stations across the U.S.
Then, on August 8th, the EIC will present an event on a studio lot in Los Angeles for scriptwriters, producers, directors, performers and execs. Along with panels of experts, the producers, studios and networks will be offered a toolkit and resources in both English and Spanish – including story ideas – provided by TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media).
The event is paid for through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63) passed by voters in 2004, and the group it created, the California Mental Health Authority. While that group gets government funding, it’s not an official state agency.
“Media and entertainment professionals can play a significant role in the public’s understanding of mental health,” said Brian Dyak, the EIC’s president and ceo. “Inaccurate portrayals of individuals living with mental illness can fuel misconceptions that could lead to subsequent discrimination and deter individuals from seeking help for mental health challenges.”
In a statement, the White House outlined the President’s goals: “The conference will bring together people from across the country, including representatives from state and local governments, mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems, to discuss how we can all work together to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance.”
Per the Hollywod Reporter, one subject the summit won’t address is guns. When the gathering was first announced in May, press secretary Jay Carney described it as part of an effort to reduce gun violence. But after guns proved a political hot potato, they’ve since disappeared from announcements.
Below, CBS News interviews Glenn Close about the summit: