Re: Question about severe emotional distburbance/mentalillness in cohousing
From: Joanie Connors (
Date: Sat, 13 Dec 2008 07:51:26 -0800 (PST)
The idea of stopping people from causing harm to others within cohousing communities is a good one, but much harder to accomplish than it would seem. Just as in families, there is always something happening that someone doesn't like or agree with - and where or how to draw the line is not easy to discern.

I don't think they are talking about overt physical abuse mostly, but psychological abuse and misbehavior. Physical abuse is horrible, but easy - you call the police. Who do you call for psychological abuse?

I know people who think that someone's wearing slightly scented sunscreen lotion is abusing their noses and others who think fairly reasonable political opinions are offensive. I've been part of hours of discussion about these and other issues of "abuse".

I also agree that mental illness should not be a basis for excluding someone from cohousing. As a psychologist, I can assure you that most labels of mental illness are fairly meaningless and do not deserve the weight and the stigma that we associate with them. Best ignore that and concentrate on behaviors.

My sense is that cohousers, like most nonprofit groups, tend to err to the side of tolerance and giving people who cause harm many chances to reform. As Diana suggested, perhaps there needs to be better boundary setting - specifying what is not acceptable and finding reasonable consequences for them?

Being on the forefront, as cohousers are on many things, perhaps it would be good to collect a database of case studies.

Joanie Connors
Silver City EcoCommunity

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