NAMI Mourns Passing of One of its Founding Members, Eleanor Owen

Feb 7, 2022


NAMI was saddened to hear of the passing of Eleanor Owen, 101, an influential founding member of NAMI whose journey as an advocate began when her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Her advocacy for her son grew into a loving, powerful movement of families. She established the Washington Advocates for the Mentally Ill (WAMI) in 1978 and was one of the founding members of NAMI the following year. Eleanor dedicated her long life to uplifting the voices of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

“Anyone who cares about mental illness, and the people it touches, owes this remarkable woman a tremendous debt of gratitude,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. “NAMI is immensely thankful for her courage, her tireless dedication and her accomplishments, which will stand the test of time.”

She was steadfast in bringing attention to mental illness. Her diminutive stature could not contain the fierceness with which she tackled mental health advocacy, spearheading needed changes to legislation in Washington state and battling the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Small in stature, Eleanor was a towering figure and a force of nature. She was an inspiration for so many in our community and she will be greatly missed,” Gillison said.

View a short video of Eleanor's recollections about the founding of NAMI in Madison, Wisc.

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