National Alliance on Mental Illness
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NAMI Salutes Mothers' Power to Transform

Any mother can be called upon to be a hero for the sake of her child. The parents of children living with mental illness are often called upon to find creative solutions to challenges. NAMI can trace its birth to a handful of mothers who reshaped the official medical understanding of mental illness, particularly schizophrenia.

In the 1970s, parents of children with mental illness had few sources of hope. A few decades ago, mothers of children with schizophrenia were often told that they caused their children's illness.

Harriet Shetler, one such "schizophrenogenic mother" — as the phenomenon was described in medical textbooks—helped found the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Fueled by public stigma, a woefully inadequate mental health care system and scientific ignorance about mental illness, Shetler and other courageous women set into motion a national movement that thrives today.

Now, families of a child living with schizophrenia are told the condition is treatable. They can reach out to organizations like NAMI for information and support. NAMI has more than 1,100 affiliates in all 50 states as well as a national organization working in the areas of education, public policy, legal affairs, multicultural outreach, communications and development.

Supporting a movement started by transformative mothers is a perfect way to honor the strong women in your family.

When Medicine Got It Wrong

The story is as much a human rights saga as a medical one, revealing one of the last acceptable prejudices in America. --

NAMI's beginnings and the courageous battle against medicine's misunderstanding of schizophrenia are the subject of a PBS documentary, When Medicine Got It Wrong.

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Child and Adolescent Action Center

Harriet Shetler, a NAMI founder

We failed to understand why parents of a child with leukemia were treated with sympathy and understanding, while parents of a child with schizophrenia were treated with scorn and condemnation.

Eve Oliphant, one of NAMI's founders, at a 1977 speech to the World Congress of Psychiatry