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Seattle University


Removing the stigma

Written by Whitney Keyes, College of Education
June 16, 2010

What do you do when someone you care about has a mental illness? That’s the situation Jessie Close, sister of actress Glenn Close, faced when her 15-year-old son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disease. Jessie had lived with bipolar illness most of her life but wasn’t properly diagnosed, and when her son plunged into psychosis, she didn’t know where to turn. The experience brought their family together and led Glenn and Jessie to co-found, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to combating the stigma associated with mental illness.

Talking about mental illness isn’t easy, but it’s one way Jessie and her son, Calen Pick, are helping to debunk the myths surrounding depression and other mental illnesses. The two were the keynote speakers at the College of Education’s 75th anniversary June 18. 

“Few people are aware that one in six adults and nearly one in 10 children suffer from an undiagnosed mental illness,” said Jessie Close, who also lives with bipolar illness. 

Seattle University’s College of Education is doing its part to help raise awareness of the stigma of mental health. As part of its mission to empower leaders in making a difference in the community, the College of Education offers 11 graduate programs, including degrees in counseling (school and community) and school psychology, to prepare leaders to serve in diverse communities. 

Dean Sue Schmitt says the college’s graduates include more than 1,000 school and community counselors, 700 school psychologists and many teachers who are equipped with the skills and knowledge to help educate and support the community when it comes to mental illness, especially in children. “The beauty of the college,” says Schmitt who herself has a degree in counseling, “is we prepare professionals for leadership roles that span the classroom to the boardroom. Mental health issues, therefore, touch the lives of all the constituencies we serve."