Re: Sorry if you were offended, here is the point reworded
From: Racheli Gai (
Date: Sun, 24 Jan 2010 07:17:34 -0800 (PST)
Hi Melanie,
I so agree with you, both on the issue of lack of correlation between social dysfunctionality and economic class, and also on the point that mental illness and lack of ability
to function socially are separate things.
I've experienced, both in my community and elsewhere, people who suffer a mental illness and yet are fine community members, while there are those with regular jobs, etc. etc. who have been incredibly problematic (and sometimes impossible) to work with.


On Jan 23, 2010, at 1:41 PM, melanie griffin wrote:

As someone who works in the mental health field, I know there is a lot of misunderstanding and stigma related to mental illness. Obviously, since Abraham Lincoln, Virginia Woolf, Patty Duke, Vincent VanGogh, and many other famously functional people have had serious and persistent mental illnesses, and could nonetheless qualify for mortgages, the two groups (those with mental illness and the underemployed) are not the same group. Same with those who perpetrate violent acts or are victims of violence and those with
mental illness.Because poor people have fewer resources to hide and
accommodate and treat their illnesses, they are more visible when they
display symptoms; poor people are also disproportionately represented in the prisons, but nobody would say that they are less moral than rich people.

It's probably more accurate and helpful to name the behaviors that make someone unable to function in community, and inaccurate to say that poor people have more of those behaviors. Having a habit of running around with a
knife threatening people, whether motivated by anger, psychopathy, or
paranoia, is not a welcome behavior in a family, community, or workplace and
might lead to a less than ideal work history. It's also important to
remember, too, that people who are mighty dysfunctional at home can be seen as normal at work (vis., just about every serious perpetrator of domestic violence I've ever known) and vice versa (the ideal family man or woman who
is a monster of a supervisor)

It's true that some people with mental illnesses don't do well at work and
can't sustain a good credit rating; it's also true that some can.  I
understand that there are behaviors that preclude working well in community. Can we stick to describing those behaviors and not make assumptions about how much money you should or can have if you don't exhibit those behaviors or call people crazy????? The original point, that those who are poor do not have whatever it takes to survive in community, may have some statistical support, but certainly does not apply to any given individual and strikes me as elitist. Excusing it by saying poor people are crazier than rich people just makes it worse. Finally, i think the real issue is that people who are
poor or even middle class can't afford to live in many communities,
including many cohousing communities, and that's just a fact. It's not
because they have character flaws or mental or physical disabilities.

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