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article imageJessie Close, Woman and Wellness, Mental Health event reaches out Special

By Sara Star     Mar 23, 2012 in Health
Halifax - The 4th annual Women and Wellness Nova Scotia event was held last night at the elegant Westin Hotel. At first glance, I was sure I had gone to the wrong party.
Wearing only a pair of jeans, I found myself surrounded by women wearing high heels, flowing dresses, flashy jewelry and lipstick. Caterers offered an array of wine, non-alcohol drinks and tasty treats. The conference room decorated with several sparkling chandeliers, made way for the tallest drapery that I have ever seen. There was excitement about the place, so many faces talking, smiling and sharing. Surely this could not be the right place.
This was supposed to be about Mental Health issues, not a place filled with laughter and wine. Or so I thought. I soon learned that wine was symbolic of "raise a glass, lift a spirit."
Beginning in Moncton NB as a"kitchen party with a purpose” , Women and Wellness has grown into a unique fundraiser that seeks to dispel myths about mental health.
Women and Wellness 2012  NS
Women and Wellness 2012, NS
Speech by Jessie Close, sister of Glenn Close
An impassionate speech by Jessie Close kept the teary-eyed audience spell-bound. By her side she carried a part Chihuahuan dog, Snitz, who helps dissipate anxiety. Jessie has become a hero to many, by bravely speaking on mental health issues. She was diagnosed with bipolar with psychotic tendencies and rapid cycling, at the age of 47. Jessie remembers feeling different from the rest of the family all of her life, having bouts of depression, suicide attempts, and battling alcoholism.
Her famous sister, Glenn Close has been a strong supporter, and together they founded BringChange2Mind to help tear down the stigma that still prevails. “Within the community, we can talk about it,” Jessie continues, “But outside of it, there is still a lot of stigma.”Jessie’s strong firm voice tells it all. Having suffered so much, she is even more determined to speak out. To give herself and many others a voice that is so important to recovery. Her speech is honest and raw, and full of determination to improve the awareness of mental health issues. She spoke of shame, guilt, isolation and went on the talk about losing friends and going through 5 marriages. “He loved it when I was manic, cleaned house and cooked,” Jessie explains, “But he didn’t like the depression.” Her voice gets louder, as she wants to be heard clearly, “But this is me too!!”, giving space to that part of her that has gone unloved and rejected by those around her.
Snitz  service dog  Jessie Close  Women and Wellness 2012  NS
Snitz, service dog, Jessie Close, Women and Wellness 2012, NS
She talked about the history of mental illness, where the sick were kept hidden, subjected to abuse, and were thought of as a “dirty secret”. The government did not help much. An effort to reduce corporate taxes meant there was less money available for mental health. Viet Nam war buried many programs, now the Iraqi occupation has thwarted funds. The disorder goes untreated and undertreated. The desperate continue to commit suicide.
She acknowledges some improvements have been made. In July 2011, ABC reported that President Obama made the decision to send condolence letters to the family of service members who kill themselves while serving in combat overseas. This helps to reduce the stigma. "They didn't die because they are weak," Obama said of the suicides in a statement released Wednesday, "and the fact that they didn't get the help they needed must change."
Women and Wellness early years
Women and Wellness was founded by Helen MacDonnell, starting in 2001 as a mid-winter party that included women, wine and treats. It was a hit. In 2003, Helen’s brother committed suicide, after suffering from bipolar for many years. She knew next to nothing about it and so began her journey. Upon learning how common the illness is, yet still stigmatized greatly, she turned her parties into fundraisers and donated the money to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
The event has grown, now sponsored by Shopper’s Drug Mart, and other local companies. It has turned into an annual festive gala, a celebratory support. The night ended with live music by Christina Martin, a soul filled voice accompanied by guitar, who cut to the heart of what it is like to live with mental illness, with the song "I am Dying".
More about jessie close, Glenn close, woman and wellness, Mental health, Depression