Re: Question about severe emotional distburbance
From: luk jonckheere (
Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2008 02:23:13 -0800 (PST)
Hello Diana,

I'm sorry to hear about the distressful situation your friends are confronted with.

Families often tolerate a lot more deviant behavior than neighbours do. Cohousing neighbours are somewhere in between, I believe. When severe dysfunctional behavior occurs in a member of a family one option can be (and often is) to treat that person.

In addition to treatment (and in rare situations as an alternative if possible) things can be done at the level of the people around that dysfunctional person (the 'system' as we call it). Cohousing neighborhood is a interactive system, not as close as family is, but with considerable impact. Many cohousing groups do a lot of things to keep their 'system' healthy and well functioning, formally and informally. Most of the time this is sufficient to keep things going well.

Sometimes an external facilitator is hired. Sometimes even that isn't enough to solve problems. Now and then one must seek help with mental health workers, police or other specialists.

In this situation, which seems to have exceeded the resources of the neighbours alone, I notice a possible opening to contact professionals, where the parents discount observations of the neighbours saying they are no mental health professionals, which is true. Based on this observation external help could be asked for.

Good information by professionals is a good start : what can you expect from this person? Will he go further in his actions? What is the best way to approach him (and his family)? Answers to these questions depend of the specific condition of the person and the way his family handles it.

Getting this kind of information can already bring the fears into realistic proportions, en make openings to helping attitudes or exchanges that brings you nearer to a solution, or at least to a better level of communication with the dysfunctional person.

Eventually further professional help should be necessary, with an appropriate level of compliance, insistence or - if inevitable - even coercion.

Although being a psychiatrist myself, I would rather talk about 'dysfunctional behavior' than 'dysfunctional person' or someone 'mentally ill'.

Diagnoses - even in obvious situations - are indeed for the mental health professionals, and even in my job I try to focus as much as possible on behavior and on what might be changed and what it takes to change it.

Perhaps it requires sometimes medication, sometimes more tolerance and sympathy for the suffering of all those concerned, sometimes more strictness , and sometimes plain force, or a combination of all these.

Never will there be any help from actions only inspired by the fear and/or anger naturally inspired by some behavior.

And this : every situation is different.

Hope these people get over this crisis soon

Luk Jonckheere

Cohousing 'La Grande Cense' near Brussels, Belgium

  • (no other messages in thread)

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.