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Advice about Mentally Ill Neighbors

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Parenting, Families, & the Community > Advice about Mentally Ill Neighbors


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Worried about Neighbor's mentally ill brother

Oct 2008

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

Unstable Neighbor

Oct 2008

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.

Disturbed next-door neighbor screaming and crying

Dec 2006

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


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