January 30th, 2014
09:53 PM ET
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"I think our family is like a lot of families. We had no vocabulary for mental illness," Glenn Close says.
Close recalls, "Jessie would do things when she was little that would have been red flags if we had been more knowledgeable."
One of the red flags includes her sister rubbing her fingers together until they would begin to bleed.
Close expresses regret that her family didn't question her sister's behavior.
"We just thought she was wild and irresponsible," Close says. "So when she was finally diagnosed, which was not until she was 50, she had lived a life, which she needn't had lived."
Jessie was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder. According to WebMD, a person affected by the disorder will experience a manic episode, a period of abnormally elevated mood, accompanied by abnormal behavior.
Jessie shared with Burnett how she felt when she found out about the diagnosis.
"When I was finally diagnosed, I went through a long period of grief, because I had so many instances where I was manic and not in my right mind," she says. "It's a difficult thing to look back on a life when you're already 50 years old."
Close is one of the biggest advocates for changing the stigma around mental illness. She started the non-profit, Bring Change 2 Mind, with a mission to raise awareness about the misconceptions associated with mental disorders.
"Four of five of us are touched in some way by mental illness," Close says.
In December, Close was in Washington to work with a bipartisan group on the Excellence in Mental Health Act. She tells Burnett the law will get government funding for behavioral and mental health organizations that are already working on the ground in communities.
"Mental health has always been the least funded of all the departments in our government," Close says. "There's been such a cutback on funds for organizations like that - we are suffering from it."
In a public service announcement, Close stands by Jessie's son Calen (he suffers from schizophrenia), and urges people to start talking about mental illness as a way to end the stigma.
"I think we're probably tighter because we've been through a war, a war on mental illness," Jessie says.