Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rage And Counter-Rage

Yesterday we had a community meeting at the Union Hotel, the subsidized apartment building where I live. The meeting was facilitated by the building manager and the social director. Anitra and I and one other tenant brought up an ongoing complaint, and about half the meeting consisted of the five of us discussing the complaint while others present just listened in. The complaint was this: when any one tenant in the building repeatedly disturbs the peace of his neighbors (we couldn't name names, and we were talking about more than one loud disruptive tenant) the management doesn't do anything to relieve the disturbed.

To clarify that, lets say Jack lives in 101 and Jill lives in 102 (there are actually no apartments 101 or 102 in my building.) Say Jack screams and rages and stomps his floor, 24-7. Say Jill is a child abuse survivor (like me) who has PTSD and not only can't sleep through Jack's rages but also has flashbacks because of them. Say Jill complains every single day about Jack's behavior.

The result of all those complaints will be no relief for JIll. None whatsoever.

After enough complaints, under some circumstances, the management will approach Jack and try to help HIM with the difficulties HE is having managing his behavior.

But no relief for Jill.

Jack has to be accommodated, of course, because his disruptive behavior is due to mental illness. That's why any intervention with Jack is presented as "helping" Jack deal with HIS problems. I understand that.

What I don't understand is how the needs of Jill get tossed aside and she never, ever, gets relief, even though her needs are also the needs of a person presenting mental health problems.

One of the things I said during the meeting was that it really galls me that, all the time that the building manager and social director talked about what they could try to do in these situations, each and every time the word "help" was used it was in the context of helping the Jacks. Never would they speak of "what can we do to help the Jills?"

A point I didn't raise at the meeting, but a sore point for me, and one they're going to hear about sooner than later, is that these people aren't even mental health professionals.

Ironically, we were told earlier in the meeting about nurses who have begun visiting the building that could provide some medical assistance to tenants. It occurs to me that the building management wouldn't dream of trying to act as medical nurses to anyone in the building presenting a significant physical complaint. But upon their own assessment of a serious mental health problem of a tenant they will presume to act as if they were psychiatric nurses.

So, we have a situation in the building where one of the Jacks is a paranoid schizophrenic who has delusions concerning other tenants persecuting him, and who therefore harangues other tenants in the halls and in the community room and in the lobby. And the management steps in when people complain of being harangued, and they try to "help" this Jack.

But instead of getting better, he gets worse. Could it be that the "help" he's getting is just feeding his disease?

I think so. I think the man's acting-out from paranoid delusions serves the purpose of calling attention to himself. The "help" is the attention he gets. They're just encouraging him by demonstrating over and over again that if he acts out he'll get rewarded with exactly what he wants, to be the center of attention at all times. They also reinforce his belief in his delusions, because he knows that the management is intervening with him in response to the other tenants complaints.

The Jacks need a place to live too, and I wouldn't propose evicting them. But the methods now being used to address these kind of problems are totally unacceptable. DESC has to find a way to address the needs of people who have PTSD who have been placed next door to disruptive people.

They're the ones who are suffering the most. For all we know the paranoid schizophrenic is as happy and blissful as he's ever been in his life with all the attention he's getting, but the people who live next door to him are undoubtedly not happy from having their lives destroyed by constantly being subjected to screaming harangues, and they are grievously unhappy to realize that the DESC management can't even bring themselves to talk about helping them.

Which makes them (us, I'm one of them) feel like were just part of the fixtures around here. We aren't even shown the compassion that animals would be given under the same circumstances.

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