Mental Health and Anti-Social Behaviour
This week is Mental Health Awareness week. As we hear from victims and speak to agencies, it is clear that mental health and anti-social behaviour are closely interlinked.
It is a difficult topic and we would suggest that often in cases of ASB it is the elephant in the room – that is, the obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss or challenge.
Doubtful? Listen to the account of this victim who completed our online survey:
“I have been accused of being put here by the Housing Association and Council to spy on my neighbour, then he raved for 4 hours about cults making sacrifices and murdering people, that his car had been tampered with by residents, that myself and other residents were all acting together in a cult, watching him with binoculars and using radios to communicate with each other. He says the nurses from nearby home are involved too. He told me that men dressed all in back go into his house when he’s not there. Says tenancy officer had been accessing his medical records and that he goes into his house when it’s empty. Accused me of putting blue crystals in his water and tampering with his supply.”
The upshot of all this, which has caused real distress to the victim, is that the Housing Association has closed his complaint because the person is not violating their tenancy agreement.
The Challenges when Mental Health is involved
There are unique challenges when there is mental health involved. First of all, in a situation like that described above, both perpetrator and victim are victims – one of the anti-social behaviour, the other of what would seem to be mental health leading to delusions. There are also people who report anti-social behaviour who themselves are suffering mental health. This may affect their perception of what is really anti-social, and therefore seem unreasonable in their complaint.
Further complications include:
- some agencies can seem reluctant to get involved in reported ASB or a neighbour dispute when there is mental health involved
- some victims are left to suffer in silence because the agency they report the ASB to is unsure what to do about the perpetrator because of his or her mental health and the vulnerability involved
- because of confidentiality, often the victim cannot even be told that the perpetrator is suffering mental health – it is never mentioned, only suspected
The Community Trigger
We have championed the Community Trigger since its introduction in October 2014. Interestingly, we have been told by agencies that they sometimes recommend the Community Trigger to a victim they are working to help, because “it is the only way to get Mental Health round the table”.
This is extremely concerning. An agency like the Council needs to get the victim to activate a formal process like the Community Trigger to get the Mental Health department of the same Council to attend a meeting and contribute their solution to the situation.
We are sure there is a high correlation between mental health and anti-social behaviour, especially given how subjective the definition of anti-social behaviour is, and how dependent on perception it is. Dealing effectively with anti-social behaviour involves good partnership working. It also involves individuals and communities being reasonable and tolerant but seeing action taken when behaviour is unacceptable.
If mental health is hidden and unspoken, proper partnership and communication is impossible and victims will continue to be fobbed off and unsupported, and those suffering the debilitating effects of mental health will not receive the support they so desperately need. So let’s get the elephant out of the room and be more mental health aware.