I live in a small, quiet, and friendly apartment complex in a nice and fairly crime-free area of town. Recently, a middle-aged man moved into a unit near mine, living with his father, and has been causing a lot of disturbance.

Over the past week, he has:
• Banged on my door twice, then suddenly ran down to his car and drove away
• Walked around the complex at 9 am shouting and cursing
• Knocked on my car window while I was pulling out to rant to me about his ex
• Quite literally walks in circles around the parking lot until he sees someone walking/driving, then approaches them or their car
• And the icing on the cake, opened my car door after I had just gotten in and got into the passenger's seat, with no invitation nor acknowledgement from me

I had a neighbor approach me the other day asking me about this individual, and the neighbor complained that he had experienced much of this and was at his wits end.

I found out, through a friend in the same complex who had spoken to the police about him, that this individual is schizophrenic and has repeated run-ins with the law.

I'm at a loss of what to do. Not because this fellow may have some personality disorder, but because I - and all of the neighbors I've spoken to about this - feel a strong sense of danger from him. He has an air of intensity and aggression and unpredictability, and that combined with his actions make the whole community feel unsafe.

How do we approach him or his father to come to a reasonable solution?

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    "Do we all just live with this?" Seems a bit outside of scope for IPS. If it was something like "how to talk to this individual" or "how to convince the police to intervene" that might be more suited here – Maxim Feb 19 '18 at 22:50
  • Thanks for the reply. I think, since he hasn't done anything illegal, it's inherently an interpersonal problem, yes? Either someone must talk to him or his father about this, and what would one say to them? – Daniel R. Livingston Feb 19 '18 at 22:52
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    Yes, it would be good to clarify the question in interpersonal terms, like "how can we approach his father to work out a solution" or something along those likes, otherwise it'll be seen as too broad or opinion based. Basically specify the outcome that want and who you want to approach about it – Maxim Feb 19 '18 at 22:56
  • edited and fixed! – Daniel R. Livingston Feb 19 '18 at 22:57

You need to figure out whether there's a real chance that your new neighbor might hurt someone. If yes, take precautions, and call the police to report all breaches of the peace.

If you determine that there's no real danger from this individual, then you'll be able to relax and start getting used to this colorful bird who has made a nest in your corner of the island.

I'm not sure exactly how to find that out.

Until and unless you've gotten convincing reassurance, I suggest that you take the better-safe-than-sorry approach and calmly and consistently calling the police to report each incident as they occur. This will provide some measure of protection, and will enable you to pick up on the police force's assessment of risk.

If you're able to make a connection with his father, this might also help with assessing the degree of risk.

What if it turns out he's not actually dangerous to others, and just does a lot of flapping and squawking? Many of us don't know how to live with and near people with a severe mental illness, because so often the mentally ill are segregated from the rest of society. Here are some ideas for how to start to learn how to be tolerant of someone who may be hallucinating and talking back to his hallucinations:

  • Do some reading about serious mental illness.

  • Invite a representative of your local Mental Health Association to come and give a presentation and Q&A in your neighborhood. If there is no community center, you may be able to use a church in your area for the event.

  • Find a chapter of NAMI and attend some of their events.

  • Call a crisis hotline and chat with the volunteer on duty. S/he will be able to help you get used to the situation, and may have some practical suggestions.

  • Try to find some common ground with your new neighbor and/or his father. Be clear in your own mind what your boundaries are going to be.

My background knowledge for this answer stems from having had a mother who worked in a state mental hospital.

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  • Contacting the police is important. Even tough it seems they don't have the time nor seem to be eager to do anything, they do have training to handle situations like this and they have connections to social workers and mental health care. – Bent Jul 25 '18 at 8:57

It is extremely hard to persuade a person to change something about themselves. Given that you do not have a close relationship with this person, and he is schizophrenic, I doubt you will find much success.

If you want to try anyway I would recommend:

1) pick one specific behavior that you want to change. Make sure it is specific, something that is a big deal, say jumping into your car uninvited.

2) Take cookies over to their apartment, or brownies or beer, the goal is to give them a small gift to show that you are friendly (not antagonistic) and that you care about them not just yourself.

3) Engage in small talk. Ask polite questions about them and share a little about yourself. This will be hard with someone who is schizophrenic. Try anyway as it shows that you care about them, and builds a rapport with them.

4) Tell them you need to leave, then stop as if you just had a thought come to you and make your request. Don't make any accusations, just ask him not to do the behavior and tell him it just makes you uncomfortable or you're protective of your personal space. Something like this:

Hey (name) could I ask you a favor? Could you not jump into my car? I know you don't mean anything by it, I'm just a little sensitive about my personal space.

5) Assuming he agrees thank him.

6) Make sure to talk to him when you see him again later. It doesn't have to be long, just a minute or two. This reinforces to him that he can get your attention if he behaves correctly.

7) If he does the behavior you have asked him not to do just politely say: Hey (name) Please don't do (behavior) I really don't like it. The next time you see him and he behaves correctly repeat step six.

8) If he fixes the behavior you asked him to stop you can pick another inappropriate behavior to ask him to stop, but this time you might just ask him to stop behavior X while talking to him on the sidewalk since you don't want to appear to be bribing the good behavior with gifts.

I know that's a lot of steps but if you want your request to be heard you will most likely need to build some sort of relationship with him and his dad. It will take a long time. For neural normal people it should work great. For someone who's schizophrenic I don't know.

Also, Please be careful, from your description he seems aggressive. You haven't described any violent behavior so that's good, but aggression in someone who is schizophrenic seems like a risky combination to me. So please pay attention to his body language and be careful. If he seems more nervous then normal back off and say goodbye.

I hope you're successful!

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