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Alex Laszlo Capshew
Schuessler Institute for Social Research

Last modified: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

IU's Pescosolido to chair international advisory council targeting mental-health-related stigma

May 23, 2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Efforts to reduce the discrimination and prejudice so often directed at people who have mental illnesses are being energized by star power -- as in acclaimed actress Glenn Close and scientific heavyweights who include Indiana University's Bernice Pescosolido.

Bernice Pescosolido

Bernice Pescosolido

Print-Quality Photo

Bring Change 2 Mind, a not-for-profit organization established by Close to confront the prejudice and discrimination associated with mental illness, announced this month the creation of an international advisory council comprising leading physicians and scientists in the field of stigma.

Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor and Chancellor's Professor of Sociology in IU Bloomington's College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, will chair the advisory council. She described its membership as "stunning" because of the breadth and depth of its members' research and service.

"It's extraordinary that someone of Glenn Close's stature is devoting her time, her energy and her efforts in a very serious way," Pescosolido said. "She wants to address the stigma attached to mental illness; she wants to reduce it. She wants to improve the lives of people with mental illness and their families."

Stigma, the well-documented reluctance by many to socialize or work with people who have a mental or substance abuse disorder, is considered a major obstacle to effective treatment for many Americans who experience these devastating illnesses. It can produce discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and social relationships, and have a negative impact on the quality of life for these individuals, their families and friends.

Pescosolido has researched the issue extensively. She received two prestigious awards recently, one from her alma mater, Yale University, and the other from the American Sociological Association, for her influential research in mental health services, social networks, suicide and the stigma of mental illness. One of her studies, published in 2010, asserted that the stigma was still entrenched in American culture, despite a decade of national campaigns (tagline "a disease like any other") to reduce it, and that new strategies were needed.

This study and others got Close's attention, Pescosolido said, because of her insistence that the work of Bring Change 2 Mind be based on science.

Close, with Fountain House, the International Mental Health Research Organization and The Balanced Mind Foundation, created Bring Change 2 Mind in 2009. The idea grew from Close's observations of how stigma affected her sister Jessie, who has bipolar disorder, and Jessie's son Calen, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder that same year.

Pescosolido said it was clear from the start that Close wanted to do more than lend her name to a worthy cause; she wanted to bring about substantial change. Pescosolido described this as a "critical time" for rethinking anti-stigma efforts because of the substantial amount of research that supports a need for a new approach, on a local, national and international level. Members of Bring Change 2 Mind's board of directors will be joining members of the new advisory council in June at the Fifth International Stigma Conference in Ottawa, Canada.

"Bringing together researchers from the different branches of science and connecting them with important public figures like Glenn Close and newly energized efforts such as Bring Change 2 Mind and the One Mind Foundation is paving a new road to improve lives of people with mental illness," Pescosolido said.

The full Bring Change 2 Mind release, with details about advisory council members, is available here.

About Bring Change 2 Mind

In 2009, Glenn Close participated in the launch of Bring Change 2 Mind, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to confronting the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness. Bring Change 2 Mind was created by Close, together with Fountain House, the International Mental Health Research Organization and The Balanced Mind Foundation, and has the support of the major mental health organizations in this country. Bring Change 2 Mind's mission is to emerge as one of the world's most effective organizations working to eradicate the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness through public education campaigns using messaging based on the latest scientific insights and then measured for effectiveness. Bring Change 2 Mind acts as a portal to a broad coalition of organizations that provide service, screening, information, support and treatment of mental illness.