When your adult child has severe mental illness: an activist mother's perspective

Dec 19, 2012

The school shootings in Connecticut have an extra layer of sadness for parents whose children are mentally ill.

Credit dearshirnk.com

In fact, Washington’s and America's main advocacy group for the mentally ill -- the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) -- was organized by a Seattle mother back in the 1970s, after her son, filled with schizophrenic delusions, shot and killed a man. 

KPLU science and health reporter Keith Seinfeld sat down with that mother, Eleanor Owen, to hear what she’s learned since then -- and how she would apply those lessons today.

"It's unfair to keep people locked up. But it's more unfair to prevent them from getting early intervention and treatment," says Owen.

"I want a little more common sense, and a little more compassion, not just for their theoretical rights, but for that human being. That's what I would like to see happen." 

(For the complete story, click the "listen" button above.)


  • If you'd like to know more about Eleanor Owen, here's a profile by Maureen O'Hagan in The Seattle Times.
  • Another local mom whose son eventually ended up in Western State Hospital was profiled last monthby Diana Hefley  in The Everett Herald.
  • A blog post by a mother has become an internet sensation, describing her struggles to help her son.