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


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

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.
Keith Seinfeld has been KPLU’s Health & Science Reporter since 2001, and prior to that covered the Environment beat. He’s been a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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