Neighbor with Mental Illness
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Bipolar Teen Neighbor
- Worried about Neighbor's mentally ill brother
- Unstable Neighbor
- Disturbed next-door neighbor screaming and crying
I need some informed advice. A friend of our daughter recently began exhibiting very unusual behavior. This is a good student, straight-laced young lady who aspires to become a pediatrician. A couple of weeks ago she drove her car (which she bought with her own money) through a stoplight, broadsiding another car and totaling both. She walked away unhurt.
After being arrested and released to her parents, she began texting me (my daughter is her friend), trash-talking her family and, not making sense. Over the next couple of days she called us several times and I had a chance to speak with her. She sounded like a completely different person, swearing, talking about getting high with me (something she nor I do), and wanting to move in with us. She spoke rapidly and without direction, wanted to become a rapper (!), when I asked how I could help her she said she wanted me to 'make her famous' and going on and on about how she was 'finally being herself' and was 'just so happy' and 'just wants to talk shit'.
Her mother told me she had been coming over to our house to see if were were there (thankfully we have been away) and that if she were to come in, the mom didn't know if we 'would be able to get the daughter out'. The kid was eventually taken to the ER, sedated with three men holding her down, and over the next couple of days was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder w/ psychosis. This came out of nowhere. She was not admitted. Two weeks have passed and she is being medicated and she is settling down, a bit, but still experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations and while sounding a little better on the phone, still sounding like another person entirely. We found a crazy note IN our house using the same mixed up language and terminology that she used in her texts and calls.
Her parents are distraught, naturally, enough, and somewhat in denial (we believe). They are focusing anger on us, the object of their daughter's obsessions, because we asked them to ask their care team if she (daughter) represented any risk to us (and also because she trashed them and said she wanted to move in with us). We get that they need someone to blame and aren't overly concerned about this, and we understand this would be a hard question to hear, but since she is hallucinating, is obsessing about us, was in our house (evidenced by the note) and almost killed someone while driving (deliberately, she told me), we thought it was not unreasonable to ask them to ask their doctor about how to handle our return and, in fact, if she should be hospitalized.
The child is at home, right across the street from us. The whole situation has made being neighbors quite weird. My question is, regardless of what they think or say, does anyone here who is trained in these sciences think we should be concerned for our safety and if so what steps should we take? Thanks in advance for any advice. BB
To answer your main question---YES you should definitely be very concerned.. If she was in your home while you were away you need to determine how and secure it 100% immediately. Teens run red lights and stop signs all the time while text messaging so not so unusual there. Bipolar disorder is a concern for sure and that she is intently focused on your family. The medications she is being given would be my utmost concern. Given recent events of young people on psych meds committing unthinkable human acts of murder and suicide are well documented in Colorado, Illinois, Connecticut, Texas, most states, and 100s of other cases including Robin Williams' suicide in this area. Her being medicated should raise very high concern for your family. The various medications are known to particularly cause problems in teens (FDA Black Box warnings)and especially if they stop taking them, doses are increased, or drugs are changed too quickly. Abrupt discontinuation via non-compliance can occur with bipolar disorders as could overdose. It is odd there seemed to be no history of mental illness which adds to the concern factor I think. In your position I would consider moving-soon. Having a bipolar teen across the street who is intently focused on my family and is being drugged with psych meds does not add up to any kind of a good outcome I can imagine. If they don't move away you should I am sorry to say. Not a physician but very well read on the issues you raise and have had life's experiences with bipolar disorder folks and others treated with psych meds. A bipolar friend recently took his life. Not a situation to take lightly from my reading of your post. Error on the side of caution I would say. been there
I am not a mental health professional, but have witnessed two close friends go through experiences similar to what you're describing. So I've read a bunch about it, and seen more than I wish I had. It's scary for everyone involved - for you, for her parents, and for the young woman herself.
What you've observed in her - recklessness, delusions, paranoia, grandiose ambitions, fixations - is pretty classic behavior for the manic side of bipolar disorder. It's also not unusual for bipolar disorder to suddenly manifest in a young adult. It's actually good news that she has an official diagnosis, since this can help things from getting too out of control too fast. And it can help her family face the reality of it. Please know that it can take some time (sometimes months) for the doctors to figure out the right medication and dosage. During that time things can still seem ''crazy.''
My advice: please be compassionate. (It sounds like you already are.) Try to show her parents that you are their ALLY. The narrative that the young woman has constructed (you as hero, her parents as villains, some future in which she moves in with you and somehow everything will be great) is __part of her disease__. As her disease comes under control, the narrative will, too.
Right now, her parents are no doubt struggling to understand their child; trying to keep her safe. So rather than asking them how they can protect you, please understand that the greatest danger in bipolar disorder is to the person with bipolar disorder. Along with the manic periods, the other side of the bipolar coin is depression; and can end in a suicide attempt or even completion.
This is not to say that she's definitely going to kill herself. This is just to say that it's understandable if her parents don't see your worries as their first priority. I'd suggest you reach out to them and ask how you can help. It may be that they have to watch her 24 hours a day; so maybe you can pick up groceries for them? Get on the same page with them about what's real (the car accident, the medication) and what's not (her fantasies about moving in with you). Show them that while you have been a sympathetic ear for their daughter, you don't believe all the nasty things she said about them. Find out what to look for (Is she allowed to drive?) and what to do if you see something off (call them right away?), so that you can be part of the support team.
Thank you for posting about this. You clearly care about this young woman. I wish more people were attentive about mental illness, and willing to talk about it without stigma or judgement. I hope she reaches stability; and I wish the best to her, and to you and her family and all the people supporting her. Liz
I am an Educational Therapeutic Placement Consultant. Typically, the therapist is monitoring the patient (teen) and will recommend the teen be hospitalized if presenting as a ''danger to others.'' I suggest you speak with your local police department. This sounds almost like a stalker situation and they can give you advice on how to navigate this difficult situation. Susan
If your neighbor is bipolar, she is likely sensitive and creative. Bipolar people need a somatic and mindfulness practice to stay centered through the highs and lows. Not having met her, I cannot say for sure whether she is bipolar. But if she is, I recommend acupuncture, a somatic practice like dance or martial arts, mindfulness, and staying away from drugs and alcohol. Here is a neurodiversity friendly bipolar site: http://www.bipolar-neurodiversity.com/ Best of luck to you. Bipolar Resources
I have a mom who is bipolar who spent 18 months obsessed with punishing me. So I hear your concern. Here's my take:
Proper medication should slow her down and become more rational and she should have been admitted to the hospital, so she probably wasn't admitted because the parents believed they could handle her illness at home.
I don't think you're in danger; I think you're (in her mind) the good family while her parents are bad. But I also think interacting with her is probably not a good idea while she's psychotic since she's certainly volatile.
I would encourage you to talk to the Berkeley police about your options and get in touch with NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) to see what support they can offer. I believe there is a crisis team (sponsored by the city) that responds in the event she shows up and won't go away.
Your understanding of her parent's distress is probably spot on. It rocks your world to have a mentally ill family member. This is not a problem you can fix, but it makes sense to have an action plan just in case she continues to involve you. --Been In Your Shoes
Are they sure there was no blow to the head in this auto accident? ?
My son is friends with our new neighbor (they are both 3 years old). They have become good friends and we are very friendly with the parents, too. They also have a 20 yo adopted son who is mentally ill and has a very troubled background, including suffering sexual abuse. On 2 occasions that I know of, my son and his friend ran into the brother's room and played with him for 20 minutes or so. I asked my son what they did and he said they jumped on the bed while the brother played guitar. I only learned about the sexual abuse recently, but was concerned at the time as well. The parents characterize the older son as unstable and as living in a fantasy world. I have told my son he is not allowed in the older boy's room again. How do I know nothing happened? I asked my son immediately on both occasions whether the brother touched him and he said no. And how do I keep him safe in the future? I watch him while he plays, but sometimes the boys run off (we live in campus housing) and it takes a few minutes to find them. worried mom
It's perfectly naturally to worry about your children. And I recommend that you express your concerns to your neighbor. Remember that they also have a younger child to protect. I imagine that the ''mentally ill'' brother is harmless. If I were you I would talk to the parents in a lovingly concerned way. Just because the older brother may have been sexually abused as a child does not mean that he would harm anyone else's child. And so often the ''mentally challenged'' can be our blessings, not our curse, if we let them. I'm a parent and totally understand your concern. I just think you should express your concerns to your neighbors. Best of luck. Best
First of all a young child should not be unsupervised in the best of situations. In this situation it is a must. Why would your child's friend's mother allow the boys into his room without supervision when she is very aware of the problems? If she can't properly supervise the kids then you must! Invite the friend to your house but do not allow you kid to go to their house unless you are there to watch. Tell you son he can't go to their house unless you are with him and enforce it. This is his safety we are talking about and thankfully you have information that allows you to protect him. Now do it! Please be more watchful
Your son is a guest in their home which includes ALL their family members. If you are uncomfortable with that, you can have the kids play at your house or end the kid's friendship. Anything else is uncalled for, insensitive and inappropriate. anon
I totally understand your concern and if I were in your shoes, I would NEVER allow my child in that house if the 20 year old is there. Being that he was molested and he's ''mentally unstable,'' you are taking a huge risk by allowing your son in his presence. Also, you need to stop questioning your son about being touched by this guy. It sounds like nothing happened but now that your son has learned you're so interested in the possibility that he was touched, he might start to believe that he was or he might tell you he was because he thinks that's what you want to hear. Just keep open communication with your child and don't overreact if he does disclose something, just take the information calmly and call the police (when he can't hear you). --a social worker
We live in Oakland and have owned our home for 2 and half years. Over this time we have come to the conclusion that our once kind and friendly next-door-neighbor is becoming more and more troubled. He is a middle-aged man who feels the world is out to get him and has become quite paranoid. There are surveillance cameras all over his house and he has restraining orders against several neighbors on the street. Lately we have just avoided him since, while we have seen him scream at neighbors (using hate language and racial epithets), he has never been inappropriate with us. His behavior is escalating and we can hear him yelling and screaming loudly in his home and on his back deck. He screams racial slurs at the top of his lungs. We have a 1-year-old baby and do not want the baby subjected to this. Just recently one night the neighbor walked up and down the side of our home screaming and yelling at us for 15 minutes. Mostly it was incoherent, but the epithets regarding our sexuality, even mentioning our child, were loud and clear. I was afraid for our safety so I called OPD, who came an hour later, flashed lights around the property and left. By that time he was back inside his home. I am afraid that if he knows I called the police he will retaliate.
It is well known in the neighborhood that this man is unstable and I feel approaching him would be counterproductive. What can I do to keep our home peaceful and safe? What should we do? -declining home value and now this??
Your unstable neighbor sounds a lot like our unstable neighbor. One valuable thing we've recently learned from our neighborhood safety officer is that the non-emergency line for OPD (777- 3333) is recorded and archived just like 911. So whenever there is a good amount of noise coming from the guy, call and hold up your phone so the threats, epithets, sheer volume and instability can be recorded for future reference. He also told us to document, document, document: dates, times, details, police response, etc. And don't ever try to reason with him; it will do no good. That isn't much advice, but we're all kind of scratching our heads about this one. Best of luck. anon
That is so sad- and scary! Your neighbor definitely sounds like he's having some schizophrenic episodes ( I have some experience with these) although it's impossible to tell what exactly is going on without a full psychiatric work-up.
The bummer is that you're not his family so it is much harder to get the police to pursue a 5150 (danger to himself or others) hold, in which your neighbor would be forced into hospitalization for up to 72 hours and maybe, get medicated and calm the behaviors down. Of course that would only last as long as he stayed medicated and the meds worked. But they would contact his family, if he has any, and that might be a good thing.
Check out this website on 5150s and try contacting the detectives and social workers mentioned in the article (Oakland and Berkeley). Or call the non-emergency number at the police department and ask for advice. Let them know that you have a young child and are getting worried. You have the right to stay safe. Calling 911 in the middle of an episode will only work if you catch him in the act so this may require a different approach.
Good luck. Website link below: http://www.thomastthomas.com/Call%20the%20Police,%20Herrera-Faeth-Wee-Lopes,%20052798.pdf jen
Hi - it sounds like you have lots of reasons to be seriously concerned about what is going on next door. I have some direct experience with the police (though not with OPD) and 5150s. If you'd like to hear my tips for dealing with this kind of thing, please email me. Meanwhile, I think you're definitely correct that you won't be successful if you try to engage your neighbor. Do you have names or phone numbers for his family members? If you don't have this info yourself, I'd try to talk to other neighbors and see what kind of info you can track down. Getting the family members to help call police will probably make things easier, if you can do that. Another potential resource is NAMI: the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.
Our next-door neighbor moved in about a year ago. Since then, it's become extremely obvious that the neighbor (I'll refer to this person as TN) is deeply unhappy and battling some psychiatric disorders. TN has crying/yelling fits during which TN moans loudly, bellows, screams, yells obscenities, etc. Lately, they've become more and more frequent. I sometimes worry about TN's safety, which leads to question number one: what do I do? I don't want to become personally involved in TN's life (there are good reasons for this), but I'm not unsympathetic to TN's plight. TN does not seem to have any human contacts who help. Is there someone I can call when I worry or to get TN help while staying personally disconnected? Calling 911 has not worked well in the past.
The second problem: Our homes are very close to one another and TN can look into one of our rooms from her place. We walk past TN's house to get into our place. Lately, it's seemed like *every* time we make an appearance in the window or walk down the path, the yelling/bellowing/screaming/crying etc. starts. It's really getting inside my head. I no longer want to spend any time in the part of our place adjacent to TN's, nor do I feel comfortable in the back yard. Every time TN starts yelling, I tense up. My upper back is killing me. We will be moving soon, so that's not a solution, nor (because of TN's assorted problems) is confronting TN about the noise. All of the immediate neighbors are having similar problems. I worry about the things our kids hear (my little girl looks at me unhappily every time she hears the yelling...). Any suggestions? concerned neighbor
After reading your post, regarding your mentally unstable neighbor, it sounded oddly similiar in many ways to the experience I am having with a new neighbor.
This neighbor I'll call LR, who moved in in August, I believe also has mental issues. Basically, instead of being calm and nice about something that is bothering her, she will scream and yell at people at the top of her lungs.
This past Friday, she went off on a 15 minute tirade at me, while yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs. Without going into details, I felt pretty threatened. Long story short she as been irrational and belligerant since she moved in. The day she moved in, in fact, she had yelled at me.
I spoke with a random Police officer recently, and asked him for advice. He just suggested calling 911 if I felt threatened by her. He said, ''You just never know how these things will escalate.''
I've also since thought about finding an intermediary who could talk to her about the problems. There may be a race issue here, since many people have noticed her ''Jekyll and Hyde'' personality when it comes to how she talks to people of one ethnicity over her own. Anyhow, I have thought about asking a neighbor approach her and just talk to her about what is going on. I do not know if this will help or be a greater negative blow.
She has also shown major insecurity and paranoia as she claimed that she ''SAW'' me talking to the neighbors about her tirades. Well, she only ''SAW'' and did not ''HEAR'' anything. Truth be told, I live on a pretty good street with many nice neighbors and we are just the types to shoot the breeze, watch out for each other's homes, and be friendly. Just because she ''SAW'' us talking, she automatically thought I was gossiping about her. She is so delusional that she truly believes that I do not have anything better in life to talk about than her.
Many other neighbors have heard her tirades.
I'm wondering if social services/family welfare section can help?
I have documented every instance of her yelling at me. Another neighbor has also suggested that I carry a tape recorder when I am working in the yard, just in case she has another meltdown on me. C