ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Housing and Predators

By Jack Bragen
Thursday September 05, 2013 - 10:01:00 PM

Sociopaths, predators, criminals and drug dealers are attracted to the vulnerabilities of persons with mental illness. Persons with mental illness are often preyed upon. Our illness, our medication, and the fact of having been taught to be docile have altogether made us an easy mark. 

Drug dealers make themselves available at the beginning of each month at apartment buildings that have been set aside for persons with disabilities. The SSI check of a disabled person means to a drug dealer that they could make money off of that person. Most persons with mental illness aren't physically very able, and this allows the drug dealer to use physical intimidation. This also means that even if the mental health consumer isn't buying drugs from social predators like these, the predators will find other ways to take advantage of the person. 

Women who are consumers in the mental health treatment system will sometimes have the wrong sort of boyfriend. The same thing happens to men with mental illness. Persons with mental illness need to be educated concerning the hazards posed by the wrong friends. 

Over the years, I have had quite a few friends who turned out to be either a bad influence, or bad news. I was lucky at the time that the consequences weren't as bad as they could have been. At this point, I have firm, well-defined boundaries concerning what I will put up with and the situations I am unwilling to get into. I am able to spot a bad influence early, and not get involved with such a person. Being married to the right person also helps. 

Persons with mental illness who have an apartment must deal with the temptation to let people without income move in with them. If the mentally ill person is fairly naïve, it can mean that he or she doesn't realize it is a common mistake, and it is to be avoided. 

Section 8 housing has strict guidelines which do not allow a renter to invite a live-in guest. Despite the rules, this still happens. 

For someone with mental illness who also relies on SSDI and/or SSI, housing is everything. A bad housing situation can mean being stuck in the presence of dangerous people or people who are parasites. On the other hand, if the housing situation is pretty good but the consumer allows oneself to be influenced by the wrong person, it can ruin housing prospects for years to come. 

Persons with mental illness who do not have section 8 will sometimes rent an apartment that they can't afford, thinking that they will be able to work to pay for such a place. If the person couldn't work before getting the apartment, they probably can't do so with the apartment. If they are working and then lose their job, it can cause inability to pay rent. When this happens, the mental health consumer may have no alternative but to go back to institutional type housing. 

In general, persons with mental illness, when young and chronically mentally ill, could benefit from some help with navigating life. If the person can not hear such advice, they might be doomed to suffer the consequences of their mistakes. When a situation is painful enough, it may cause a person to learn from it. However, the learning curve of persons with mental illness is not always present. The illness, because it affects brain function, may interfere with learning from mistakes. 

People with mental illness need protection from criminals who prey upon us. In some instances, we may need to be protected from ourselves if we have bad judgment that puts us in jeopardy. Unfortunately, at present this protection doesn't exist.