Dear Margo: Dealing with Friends Who Are Mentally Ill

My friend is clinically paranoid. Should I phase her out? Margo Howard’s advice

Dealing with Friends Who Are Mentally Ill

Dear Margo: Is there a point where clinical paranoia can become dangerous? There’s a 10-year friendship on the line. Her paranoia is pretty well known to many of her friends, but we love her. However, when her suspicions go from “there’s a camera in my smoke detector” to “I was surrounded by kids in the store, and I’m pretty sure they sprayed chemicals on me as part of a church conspiracy to poison me,” then it’s hard to be around her. The problem is she can’t accept how illogical her notions are. She thinks doctors euthanized her mother, who had broken her hip, was bed-bound and died of a blood clot.

Now, she has befriended someone new who is openly hostile and gossipy. I think as long as people don’t get along, my friend feels safe. I told her I need to be away from her and her new friend, who I think she is using to get back at me for joining her church — the one that is poisoning her. She thinks my decision to take a time-out is blackmail, but actually, I’m just tired of the drama. I am tired of hearing stories about poison, and I’m worried that her passive-aggressive behavior, anger and paranoia may cause her to act out. I don’t know where to turn. — Worn Down

Dear Worn: Yes, there is a point when paranoia can become dangerous, most often with paranoid schizophrenics. What would be most useful is to see to it that she is under the care of a mental health professional. But of course, you can’t make this happen. And it doesn’t sound as if she is medicated, although medications are not always effective.

If this woman has no one closer to her than the friends (i.e., family), you are pretty much out of luck unless she demonstrates that she is a danger to herself or others, in which case the police are the first responders. I can tell you that it will be extremely difficult for you to convince her that you are not spying on her. Also, as you indicated, it will be difficult for you to convince her to get help on her own. Despite this, you should keep trying to convince her to seek help, but if there is strong resistance, I suggest you extend the time-out. Friends can only do so much when there is mental illness involved. — Margo, realistically

When Animals Can Be Therapeutic

Dear Margo: I’ve been suffering from depression for quite some time and am working hard to get through this difficult time. I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist, but I find myself still struggling. What I’d really like to do is get a dog. A dog would help me get out of the house and give me a companion. The problem is that the apartment where I live does not allow dogs. I’m stuck in a lease, so moving isn’t an option. Is there such a thing as a service animal for people with depression? I know there are laws that allow service dogs to live and go where others are not allowed. — Just Need Some Company

Dear Just: Because you mentioned the state in which you live, I was able to look up the statute — though they are pretty uniform throughout the country. A dog for a depressed person would be considered a “therapy dog.” Service dogs require a determination of a disability, and they are trained to do particular tasks. The legal definition of a service dog specifically eliminates animals that are used for emotional support or comfort.

Here’s what I would suggest. Ask your psychiatrist to write a note to whoever runs your apartment building, saying a small dog would be beneficial to your mental health. Should this exception not be granted, I would recommend getting a cat. You could take him or her to the park on a leash — which I have seen. Also, a girlfriend who was recently widowed was saved from total despair by getting a cat that, fortunately, has a lot of personality and, I suspect, thinks he’s a dog. I hope one of these options works out for you. — Margo, supportively


Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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68 comments so far.

  1. avatar Jessica Morrow says:

    Another great suggestion for ‘Company’ would be to volunteer at an animal shelter. In case the apt complex or manager puts down their foot on the pets rule, or if a cat doesn’t cut it, helping out at a shelter could do wonders for Company. Not only would volunteering give them a sense of purpose and a reason to get out of the house, but it would really help the shelter in their area and brighten many dogs day. I hope Company gives this idea some thought.

    • avatar Legal Eagle says:

      That is an excellent idea Jessica! I hope Company will take it to heart.

    • avatar Cindy Marek says:

      Excellent suggestion! :-)

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Extending yourself to others, including animals, is probably the best therapy but make sure you verify that the shelter is a “no-kill” shelter before you recommend it.  Otherwise at some point she may go to the shelter and find her “favorite” is gone.  And that will only worsen the situation.  Been there, done this with a friend who literally became a recluse for a month. Wondering why they didn’t tell her.  She would have adopted the dog herself had she known.  They had not told her their policy of holding animals only for a certain length of time before they were euthanized.

    • avatar Anne Whitacre says:

      it is a good idea, but I can tell you that in the worst of my depression (some years ago) I couldn’t  have gotten out of the house to interact with other people if I had been forced at gunpoint.       In fact, one of my doctors “prescribed” me to “do something with other people for fun  one time a week” and I failed at that much of the time.  My dog helped me bridge that emotional gap and also got me up and moving around, something I wouldn’t do for myself or with others. 
      The “therapy dog” is a terrific solution.  it would provide companionship; force the person to take the dog for a walks (and thus interact, even fleetingly with others) and get some exercise.  I can say that my dogs over the years have done more for my depression symptoms than anything else I’ve done, prescribed or not. I am now twenty years past that time in my life, but the dog (in some form or another) is here to stay.

  2. avatar Legal Eagle says:

    LW#1’s friend cannot accept how illogical her notions are because to her, they are not at all illogical! They are as real to her as the feelings of hunger or needing air are to the non-mentally ill population. I work in the mental health field and it is not possible to “talk” the mentally ill out of their notions of being spied on, poisoned, etc.
    My suggestion – if the friend has family members, call them and let them know what is going on. If she becomes a danger to herself or others, call the police and let them know. You might ask her to be evaluated by a mental health professional. She won’t do this willingly probably, but you may be able to couch it such that “Hey, if you get evaluated and they say you’re OK, then you can prove me wrong!” Depending on the type of person she is, that may be enough to push her toward seeing a professional. If you find that she is being taken advantage of financially or otherwise abused by someone because of her condition, call Adult Protective Services in your town and report it to them. Other than that, there is not a lot you can do for an adult who is not under the legal guardianship of another person.
    There are times where you must distance yourself from someone because they literally are not in their right mind. It’s OK to do that if you find yourself becoming stressed and worn out to a great degree by this friend. Keep tabs on her from afar if possible so you can be there for her if she needs you then give yourself the distance you need for your own mental health.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      One film I might recommend before people assume that paranoia is a sure sign of mental illness is Gaslight which focuses on a dynamic called gaslighting that is very real in both abusive relationships and stalking which psychologists are just now beginning to look at. 

      Behind the pink elephants there often is a very real elephant. The one creating the pink elephants.

      I advocate for stalking victims.  Many of whom are victims of domestic abuse/violence who became stalking victims once they left the abusive/violent relationship.  It is next to impossible to point out the pink elephants aren’t real. As attorneys as well as psychologists no doubt will attest to.  But many attorneys and psychologists fail to see the real elephant. 
      Many victims do become mentally ill.  Even in those cases, my advice is always better to be paranoid than dead. But even better to seek the support of a psychologist.  My experience, however, is that the suggestion results in the paranoia being directed at you for suggesting it.  At which point, sadly, to preserve your own mental health you really do have to simply wish them well. From a distance.

      • avatar Legal Eagle says:

        It is true that sometimes the paranoia can be real. However, when someone believes the children at the mall are trying to poison them as part of a church conspiracy, that is likely not the real elephant behind the pink ones. Gaslighting does happen with those who are close to us – domestic relationships, stalkers, etc. In the case of the LW’s friend, it doesn’t appear as though she has any connection to the paranoia triggers except that she is a member of the church. There is not a specific group or person she feels is out to get her within the church apparently.
        In any case, the woman clearly needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional. As both an attorney and soon to be licensed therapist, I can say on this topic that attorneys are not trained to sort out the mental illnesses of any given client. However, if violence and/or stalking is occurring (I have had more than one case where that was true) then we assist the client in finding the appropriate help and/or we call the police.
        As mental health professionals, we are trained to tease out the real elephants vs. the pink ones and most MH professionals can do that quite well given that that it is part of the training. However, a great deal of evaluation goes into that and that is why I suggested the LW encourage her friend to be seen by someone. There are many tests, observations, etc. that can bring forth a pattern of clinical paranoia vs. something that is real, but a professional must be the one to conduct them.
        All the general discussion of this aside, I really hope the LW’s friend gets the help she needs. The longer it goes on, the worse it can get in a number of areas.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I would wish the same but my experience has been they don’t and again the person who suggests they seek help find they have become part of the conspiracy.  Even when the help is “forced” either through a family member or a court they tend to reject it as part of the conspiracy.  Some really are beyond help save medication.  Sad but reality. 

        Sometimes the medication helps. Sometimes it makes it worse. And most mental health professionals are not trained to do much of anything beyond reaching for a prescription pad. Often “pre-signed” by a consulting psychiatrist who of course has not seen the person for whom the medication is being prescribed.   

        The lost among us. Needing tending. Often finding themselves revictimized by a society that really doesn’t deal well with societal problems in general. 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        And I might as well go ahead and comment on attorneys and stalking – most attorneys think stalking is something women put on in the morning along with the make-up. 

      • avatar Legal Eagle says:

        Baby Snooks,
        You are making a lot of generalizations that I do not believe are fair. “Most” mental health professionals are trained to do quite a lot beyond reaching for a prescription pad. Mental health professionals encompass a wide variety of jobs – it is only the psychiatrists who can prescribe medication and that is generally all they do. However, psychologists and licensed therapists do the actual counseling and therapy to assist those with these problems and in my experience actually working within this field, they do so quite well.
        The same is true of attorneys. “Most” attorneys do not think stalking is something women put on in the morning along with the make-up. I practice family law and none of the attorneys in my very large network of lawyers in various practice areas believe stalking to be something made up. We take it seriously and we report it to the appropriate authorities.
        It’s a shame that you’ve come across attorneys and MH professionals who do not help those in their care, but please do not paint “most” within the unhelpful portrait. There are bad apples in every bunch, but the majority are good apples.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I have moderated a forum for stalking victims for the past four years who have nowhere else to turn after they have turned to attorneys and psychologists and of course the appalling civil and criminal justice system and so that is my experience as an advocate in addition to my own personal experience as a victim. 

        Psychiatrists do far more, despite your stating they do far less, than merely prescribe by the way. The good ones anyway. I always recommend a stalking victim or victim of domestic abuse/violence or any kind of violence including random violence which is becoming a plague in this country see a psychiatrist. 

        I was having what I thought were panic attacks four years ago. Two friends who are psychologists recommended I go on medication.  I went to a doctor instead. I had been having malignant hypertensive attacks. Psychiatrists are trained to distinguish between the psychological and the physiological.  Stress causes much more than just post traumatic stress syndrome. High-blood pressure kills. Panic attacks do not.  Pills do not make the stalker go away. And my experience, based on my observation, is that the pills don’t make the “pink elephants” go away either.  Sometimes they produce more “pink elephants.” In some cases if there is an underlying condition that is overlooked they actually produce all of the “pink elephants.”  We are a pill-crazy society. And some of the crazy is caused by the pills. 

        You and your peers in your network may be exceptions to the rule. I know the rule all too well. 

      • avatar Legal Eagle says:

        Yes, psychiatrists do more than prescribe generally speaking, but it depends on the type of patient they are dealing with as well. In the psychiatric hospital, they diagnose disorders and prescribe. The therapeutic part of it is left to the licensed counselors.
        You seem to have had major problems with stalkers that have colored your opinion of lawyers and MH professionals. That is really too bad. Clearly, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this issue. I do wish you the best of luck in dealing with whatever issues you have with stalkers, etc.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Actually I worry about others who cannot fend for themselves. I can. And have. But thank you for the thought just the same.

      • avatar stateoflove_N_Trust says:

        You are also hearing only one side of the story, from those who believe the system or others have failed them.  Your evidence of the failure of attorneys and mental health professionals is a selection bias.  Certainly, there are attorneys and MHP that fail their clients, but your point is overstated.  Every attorney or MHP professional that I work with, and as an attorney who works in the family law field as well as the juvenile dependency/delinquency and volunteering for the local domestic violence shelter to obtain protective orders I know alot of them quite well, takes stalking and domestic violence issues very seriously.  I would suggest that the true picture lies somewhere between our respective positions. 

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        The statistics would seem to indicate otherwise.  The Department of Justice survey on stalking that was released two years ago next month, the only survey conducted by the Department of Justice, indicated charges are filed in only 20% of the cases reported to law enforcement. And not all are reported. Or are reported and not filed properly by law enforcement if filed at all.  Some are, to be blunt, tossed in a waste basket.   The same attitude is found with regard to domestic abuse/violence which is rampant within the law enforcement community itself. If a law enforement officer “puts his woman in her place,” do you really believe he is going to arrest another man for doing the same?  

        Stalking victims and victims of domestic violence are usually given no option by our criminal justice system but to pursue a restraining order, which differs from a protective order, and quite a few are found every year lying on a sidewalk with their stalker or abuser standing over them with a gun in one hand and a restraining order in another. 

  3. avatar Joanna Snell says:

    Margo, I must protest your characterization of paranoid schizophrenics as turning to violence. They are statistically no more likely to be violent than the general population (which would include people under the influence of various substances and with other mental illnesses). While any person who is deep into a psychotic episode is more likely to be violent out of a sense of self preservation, this is not limited to sufferers of schizophrenia. I am so passionate about this because my mother is paranoid schizophrenic and although my childhood was full of drama and trouble, she was never violent and was a more loving and involved parent than many parents (see Dear Abby’s letter by the 13 year old who cannot get her father to spend any time with her or my own children who are in the same boat). Please research before maligning about 3 million people in the U.S. (schizophrenics comprise about 1% of the population).

    • avatar Margo Howard says:

      Joanna – There are any number of articles that come up on Google, but just try this one on for size. As this abstract properly points out, paranoid schizophrenia is a “close cousin” of bi-polart disease, and the news is filled every day with people so afflicted committing murder. Your own situation is what is called, in medicine, “merely anecdotal.” I do not find a 13-year-old in Dear Abby to be dispositive.

      • avatar Joanna Snell says:

        There is an article from Medical News Today about a Sweedish study that studied crime in 8,000 schizophrenics over decades and found no higher risk of crime due to the illness, rather the higher risk was associated with the concurrent substance abuse (which raises violence in the general population as well).

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        You raise a very interesting point with regard to something I just posted about how we are a pill-crazy society and how some of the crazy is caused by the pills.  The indication has been that all of the veterans who had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and “snapped” were on medication. It raises a question about whether the disorder caused them to “snap” or the pills did. I suspect the pills did. But pills are easier to deal with than underlying causes. Particularly with veterans.

        I will stand firmly with Margo on this one. Anyone diagnosed with a personality disorder tends to be more reactive and on that basis alone probably tends to be more violent and that may sound outrageous but I would suspect most research would bear that out.  Those cases where the cause is physiological may be different from those cases where the cause is psychological. It is a distinction not always made in the diagnosis. 

        Paranoia can be part of a normal reaction for victims. But it can also become part of a personality disorder that has either developed or simply was there which was not diagnosed. Going back to the veterans who “snapped” it was the paranoia that led to the “snap.” They are just now finally doing research.  Decades too late for many veterans.  The “pink elephants” are usually a good indication of a disorder and that they have become a walking time bomb. The paranoia of course being what sets the bomb off.  Difficult to do but again to preserve your own mental health you have to wish them well. From a distance. 

      • avatar Joanna Snell says:

        While I respect your “feelings” I would ask for the studies to back them up. Your inclusion of the whole mental health establishment in general did no more to support your argument than my anecdotal evidence did to support mine. I at least have a more recent study, that accounted for many more factors that affect violent crime.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I will be more than happy to post those studies regarding the veterans. Once they are completed and published. 

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        All right. You can all refer to my experience as anecdotal if you so desire, but being diagnosed as both schizophrenic (delusional type) and bi-polar I, in addition to OCD, clinically depressed, and having an additional, unspecified anxiety disorder, I have a little knowledge of the psychiatric/phychologist/therapist experience.
        My first psychiatrist was also an excellent therapist. She diagnosed me outside of a hospital setting. She precisely and closely monitored every single medication that I attempted (including dosage changes), and was available 24/7 for emergencies. Trust me, there were many changes, which is typical of finding the ideal (not perfect) medication to help me cope with my difficulties. Medications do not cure the mentally ill, neither those with Axis I or Axis II (personality type) disorders. They can alleviate the symptoms, help chemical imbalances, clarify thinking, calm anxiety…and yes, some do have a sedative affect, sometimes egregiously severe. There are also side effects, and these can be anything from minor inconveniences to utterly devastating. I’ve experienced the full range, including a psychotic break from Wellbutrin (an antidepressant commonly used to help women lose weight, and to help people stop smoking), and severe tardive dyskinesia, uncontrollable obsessive/compulsive behavior regarding making anagrams out of words on my computer screen, counting trees while riding in the car, and rearranging numbers on license plates from Abilify (which is not just an enhancer for antidepressants, but a very powerful anti-psychotic), and serious weight gain, ennui, and loss of concentration on Zyprexa, an anti-psychotic.
        I lost my first psychiatrist due to her unavoidable, sever physical health problems. My current psychiatrist is not a pill-pusher, and consults closely with the therapists he recommends. My therapist never would suggest medications; if she thinks that a problem is that severe, she recommends psychiatric counseling from a handful of diagnostic psychiatrists who work both in and out of hospital settings.
        Yes, there are bad psychiatrists, and bad therapists (I once had one of the latter, who was an absolute nightmare)…and bad dentists, oncologists, cardiologists, dermatologists who can’t just remove that suspicious mole, but also want to talk you into Botox and chemical peels, ENT’s who want to give you rhinoplasty along with fixing your allergies…you get the drift. I’m really not going to talk about lawyers. We’ve had two who were very blunt, honest, decent people, and not just because they helped us, but because they were realistic…and then there have been all of the others I’ve known.
        And schizophrenia? I drive a car, have raised two children (well, the happy, healthy, well-adjusted, funny, compassionate, loving, loyal, honors straight A student 13 year old boy with many good friends who loves theater and wants to be a paleontologist…not a money-making, toy-acquiring social climber is still at home), have been happily married for 16 years, have dear friends, a clean house…you wouldn’t know a thing if you met me casually. Schizophrenia is frequently very manageable. I know others as well. The media loves its sensationalistic cases, and the public bases all of its “knowledge” on these. I don’t attack cars with umbrellas either, and I’ve never harmed anyone just for giggles. There are many functioning schizophrenics in this country.
        The Axis II personality disorders are actually the hardest to treat, incidentally. They do not typically respond to medication, or to therapy, or to any combination of the two. Narcissistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and their ilk make human beings who are very dangerous to those around them. Not only are they difficult to convince that they need treatment, because they completely lack empathy, but even if convinced to accept treatment, it is rarely clear even to the therapist or psychiatrist whether there is any effect or not, because these individuals are supreme prevaricators and manipulators. Treatment is often accepted only to prevent the individual from suffering consequences for some action.
        Schizophrenics do feel empathy. We may be unable sometimes to feel physical pain, we may see, hear, feel, taste and smell things that aren’t there, we may suffer from delusions and paranoia, but we do have emotions. However, like most humans, we are individuals with unique personalities. If a person has become so destructive to those around her, such as in L#1, that it is severely impacting the lives of those who love her, then it may be time for them to distance themselves in order to preserve their own sanity and health. LW1 can only suggest to her friend that she desperately needs help…she can’t force her to get it. Sometimes even family has very little legal recourse.
        As for priests, ministers and pastors? Some of them understand psychiatry and mental illness, and some of them are well vested in the belief in witches, Satan, and the idea that God casts out demons. Tread carefully there.

      • Thanks for reminding us that there are good and bad in every profession.
        Those professionals I respect the most are those who police their own professions and don’t make excuses for shoddy work.
        I do think that some professions have problems that are systemic, though. For instance, it was very difficult to find a neurologist who would take my symptoms seriously, and I dealt with quite a lot of condescending and insulting comments along the way – and my experience doesn’t seem to be unusual. Many of the large neuromuscular disorder awareness/support groups of one kind or another talk about this problem.
        My sister, a psychotherapist, is sometimes highly critical of her own profession. That’s because she loves her profession, of course, not because she does not.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Margo: I do love your column, and I think highly of your attitudes and opinions. But you have ventured out of the ballpark and into another county on this subject.
        The article you cited was written regarding Canada’s lack of mental health care, and its peculiar laws associated with “lack of responsibility due to mental health issues” that allow the unsupervised release of violent criminals with stern admonitions to take their psychotropic meds (right). In the United States, violent criminals who receive sentences of “not guilty by reason of insanity”, or the equivalent depending upon the state (and these verdicts are becoming increasingly hard to come by), are remanded into the custody of institutions for the criminally insane…not released on their own recognizance with a promise to take their pills. Andrea Yates, the Houston woman who drowned her five young children during a psychotic break brought on my extreme post-partum depression and psychosis, the birth of her last child (her husband refused to use birth control to prevent, despite his complete knowledge that she was incapable of being responsible, and medical and psychiatric advice that she should never have another child), and her inability to keep up with her medication (again, her husband refused to make certain that she was taking it, or to have her temporarily committed, which he could have done), was sentenced to a facility for the criminally insane. Now fully medicated, she accepts full responsibility for her crimes, and has attempted suicide at least twice. Her husband, who deliberately left her alone with their children after being advised that she was psychotic and should never be left alone with them, is remarried, and producing more babies. This is the United States, not Canada.
        Also, the article is almost 9 years out of date. It was written in 2002, and cited statistics for the years between 1997 and 2002, in Canada as a whole, not a single province. It listed, I believe, 107 cases. It did not mention the number of fully functioning, professionally monitored, mentally ill individuals in the country as compared to the number of those who had committed violent crimes. It did not even compare numbers on fully medicated, psychiatrically monitored schizophrenics in Canada, as opposed to those who had been responsible for violent crimes. This has the distinctive coloration of fear-mongering and sensationalism, and is the very kind of article that makes it so very difficult for the mentally ill to get decent and fair treatment (or even an adequate hearing) in today’s media obsessed society.
        Schizophrenia and bi-polar disease are not the same illness, and are very distinct from each other. People who suffer from bi-polar II are rarely dangerous to anyone but themselves. Those with bi-polar I, such as myself, can suffer from episodes of mania that can cause psychotic breaks that include hallucinations, delusions and paranoia, and can be dangerous to others during these periods. However, this degree of psychosis is unusual. Schizophrenics are not necessarily dangerous to anyone, and are more likely to inflict harm on themselves than on others. Most attacks on others do occur during psychotic breaks due to delusions, paranoia (which is not considered a valid psychiatric term anymore), hallucinations (which include those infamous voices) and pure fear for the persons’ whom they attack and kill safety. Extremely severe depression can also lead to psychotic breaks in both men and women. all of these are horribly exacerbated by self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, especially hallucinogens. Most schizophrenics do not use coke, because they want to slow down their thoughts, but curiously, crack and meth, and heroin mixed with both has become popular as a self-medication method. Since all of the above cause further brain damage, the results are usually horrendous.
        For every person who is mentally ill who commits some horrible act of murder or other violence, there are thousands who live harmless, responsible, fully functional lives. Could we please stop playing to the anachronistic fears of the masses, and promoting the idea that the mentally ill are dangerous lunatics who deserve to be locked away, out of sight, out of mind?
        Margo, you are a wise and brilliant woman. Give us a hand here.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I suspect Margo should have used the term “untreated mental illness” and while we may not like the, the statistical data collected by the Department of Justice does indicate there is a disproportionate number of mentally ill people who enter our criminal justice system particularly among our prison populations.

        I am not sure how detailed some of the studies are, there are quite a few, but in all probability the majority of those who enter our criminal justice system have either been misdiagnosed or undiagnosed prior to arrest and/or incarceration. While victimizers, they are also victims of our society that is still in the Dark Ages in many ways with regard to mental health/mental illness issues. Those who do manage to seek help are often misdiagnosed. Others simply are undiagnosed.  They simply are left to fend for themselves the best they can and receive help only after they enter the criminal justice system. Unfortunately as with everyone else, once they are released they cannot be forced to continue treatment beyond what care may or may not be available through the public health care system.  Many are not even given the option because of state and local communities that often simply do not want to pay for the continued treatment. 

        Thank you for pointing out that “mentally ill” people can and do become “mentally healthy” people with proper diagnosis and treatment and for pointing out the importance of a psychiatrist who is able to property diagnose and treat not only a primary condition but underlying and contributing conditions as well.  And for pointing out the problem of medication that often can and does worsen those conditions. 

        In the begining of the focus by psychologists and psychiatrists on post traumatic stress as a separate condition rather than an indication of another condition it was classified as a syndrome rather than a disorder.  The distinction seems to be the manner of treatment which is medication.  My personal belief is that the medication often is what moves a victim of post traumatic stress from syndrome to disorder. 

        I dislike the term mental illness.  It carries a stigma in our society that isolates people and encourages discrimination which often is the “brick wall” between “mentally ill” and “mentally healthy.”  When someone says they have diabetes we don’t react the way we do when someone says they have schizophrenia. Despite the fact that both are manageable with medication.  Many conditions we classify as mental illness in fact are physical illness since they are caused by chemical imbalances just as diabetes is.

        Someone who refuses help often does become a danger to themselves and others but as with regard to the “probable threat” society for the most part refuses to intervene until the person “does something” which produces horrible tragedies which often produce this curious “why didn’t someone do something?”  No one could. Except for provisions regarding involuntary commitment at the request of a family member, although in many states it requires a court hearing and another famly member can and often does oppose it,  our laws do not allow anyone to do anything. Until the person “does something.” That is something most if not all stalking victims, by the way, hear when they contact the police or talk to prosecutors. The stalker has not done anything. 

        It is an amazing statement for stalking victims to hear considering that all our stalking laws were written to prevent the stalker from doing anything

        If our laws regarding the mentally ill were changed, the reality is that what the law says and what the law does are two different things.  And most police and prosecutors would again take the approach that the person had not “done anything” to warrant intervention. Often because they don’t want another file in the stack on the desk. 

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        The difficulty in describing mental illness unilaterally as physical illness is that not all of them are actually diagnosable based on chemical imbalance, misfiring synapses, differences in the structure of the brain, or any discernible physiological reasons. Schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, and a vast variety of other disorders qualify.
        The psychiatric community cannot say the same for the personality disorders that cause so much mayhem in the world. While an individual diagnosed with borderline personality disorder can be temporarily sedated with certain medications, it has been demonstrated repeatedly that these actually have no demonstrable effect on the person’s illness. Those with Axis II type disorders might be the people who account for the majority of the undiagnosed mentally ill in the criminal justice system. I am not saying this because I am defending those with Axis I disorders, because I am only too aware of what can occur during psychotic breaks (again, Andrea Yates, or the clinically depressed man left alone by his wife with his twin five-year-old girls, whom he stabbed more times than the medical examiner could count).
        However, those with Axis I disorders frequently struggle with their delusions and compulsions during times of lucidity, and often perform their violent acts in the haze of a psychotic break. Those with personality disorders who do not have what people glibly refer to as a “conscience” can and do plan their actions, calculate the risks, and are fully cognizant that other people will consider what they have done to be a crime, and will act to prevent being caught, and will only show remorse if it helps serve to get them sympathy, or a reduced sentence. They don’t feel it, and to many of them, their victims are things.
        Andrea Yates feels deep remorse and agony for the suffering she imposed on her children, and her many doctors and specialists have observed that it is genuine. After she drowned her children, she called the police and said she thought she had done something terrible, and that she has saved her children. As soon as she was properly medicated, she tried to kill herself out of guilt and horror, and only extreme medical intervention has kept her among the living. Proper medication consistently taken could have easily averted the tragedy, including birth control.
        Susan Smith, who planned the drowning deaths of her two very young sons meticulously, and fabricated a very convincing story to cover for herself (she committed the murders to keep a relationship with a boyfriend who didn’t want children), has never shown any actual remorse for her act. Instead, she has claimed adult abuse by her former father-in-law (?), found Jesus and been reborn, and claimed that she is now forgiven, and has been determined to have been “depressed” because she couldn’t find or maintain a “romantic relationship” at the time of the murders. She watched her car sink into the water, and her strapped in and helpless children struggle, and listened to them cry for mommy, and walked away without a single tear. She might have never been caught, her story of a car-jacking was extremely convincing to most. This is the sort most frequently found in the criminal justice system…and they can’t be helped. They have nothing to do with any physiological issues.
        Tell someone you have diabetes, and they will give endless sympathy. Tell someone you are bi-polar, or schizophrenic, and even though you may have known them for a long time, laughed with them, listened to them, helped them through many a crisis and bandaged their children’s scraped knees, you will become a frightening pariah.
        Do I know this? My dears, I have seen the pink elephant…

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        My personal belief is that diagnosis by DSM-IV is according to pharmacological rather than psychological criteria which is why there is so much misdiagnosis. 

        Define the “sociopathic” personality.  It is made difficult because we live in a predatory society and to a degree a sociopathic society. We have just as many sociopaths in the corporate world as we do in our prisons.  And in politics.

        Year ago a mayoral candidate in Houston made a comment during the campaign that it was never a question of whether something was ethical but simply a question of whether something was legal. That, to me, defines a sociopath best.  He of course was elected mayor three times. Thank god for term limits!

        I cannot discuss Andrea Yates without foaming at the mouth.  She is a perfect example of how our entire system from the mental health system to the child protection system to the criminal justice system are total disasters that produce the personal disasters that in turn produce the tragedies.  My personal belief is her husband and pastor and the various mental health and social workers involved in the situation are the ones who should have been on trial. All of whom were trampled by the stampede of her pink elephants and still did nothing. 

        The forensic psychiatrist who “got his television shows mixed up” should have been charged with perjury along with the prosecutors and most of all our district attorney who was finally forced to resign by the state attorney general’s office in what many believe was an “under-the bench” arrangement with a federal judge to preclude the district attorney from being charged with perjury in a federal lawsuit. Not the first time he had committed perjury. But it was the last. 

        Tell someone you have diabetes, and they will give endless sympathy. Tell someone you are bi-polar, or schizophrenic, and even though you may have known them for a long time, laughed with them, listened to them, helped them through many a crisis and bandaged their children’s scraped knees, you will become a frightening pariah.

        People in their ignorance once thought cancer was contagious.  You cannot deal with ignorance. And some, well, believe ignorance is bliss. Until they become a victim of someone else’s ignorance. 

      • avatar Anne Talvaz says:

        Margo & Joanna –
        Joanna has a point – character does play a part in the behaviour of the mentally ill. I have a paranoid schizophrenic brother-in-law who is also the kindest, gentlest person imaginable. He and his family went through some rough times when the illness appeared and was diagnosed, and it became clear that he was stuck with it for life, but the “crazy behaviour” never went beyond setting off firecrackers outside his therapist’s home and a single suicide attempt. Since then he has built a life for himself, with friends, a girlfriend and as much work as he can manage, and he is respected and loved by all who know him.
        Unfortunately, there are plenty of devious, manipulative and malevolent people out there, some of whom are mentally ill, as well as mentally ill people who develop a grudge against the world in general because of their illness and seek scapegoats. Either way, they are a danger to others. Sounds as though Worn’s “friend” is one of these nasties. Worn, please, please get out of it NOW.

    • avatar CanGal says:

      The family of the young man who was beheaded by a paranoid schizophrenic on a greyhound bus up here in Canada would undoubtedly beg to differ.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Beg to differ with what, precisely? It always helps when you reference the exact point which you are disputing, especially given the randomness with which replies appear on this site, but also given the quantity of replies and comments made, and the number of opinions and facts stated. This is a common problem on this site, short replies that are so non-specific as to be baffling in their origin.
        No one said that schizophrenics, or those with bi-polar disorder, or those suffering personality disorders, or even those considered to be garden-variety normal people (the violent criminals who just can’t seem to find a sympathetic shrink to diagnose them as mentally ill) are unilaterally incapable of inflicting harm on anyone. I think perhaps you have not carefully read the comments, misinterpreted them…or perhaps you are one of those who see anyone who is afflicted with schizophrenia as a dangerous lunatic who should be locked away from polite society.
        If the 2002 Canadian article Margo cited is any indication of the Canadian judicial system’s handling of violent criminals found not guilty due to insanity, or diminished capacity, or whatever they choose to call it…then I pity both the mentally ill (because they are certainly not receiving adequate care, supervision or even attention…one might even say the country is backward thinking), and any potential victims. People with schizophrenia can be helped through medication and therapy. If they have committed a violent crime, they should be remanded to an institution for the criminally insane…not released and sternly told to take their medication regularly or else. When a paranoid schizophrenic commits an extreme act of violence such as decapitating someone on a bus, his disease (it is a physiological disease caused by severe chemical imbalances and even brain abnormalities), he is not in control of himself, he has not planned the action, and he is responding to physiological changes that create delusions, paranoia, fear, anger and a complete lack of control. It is called a psychotic break. It is also clear that he is not medicated, has not been so for some time, is not under any sort of regular supervision, and belongs in an institution…and has probably required institutionalized treatment for a very long time.
        These are not excuses. Having suffered psychotic breaks (no, I have never been violent, just terrified and suicidal), I know how the lack of control feels. But my voices and things only hate me. The system fails so many people, including the victims of the violence and mayhem caused by the untreated. I am fortunate. I have one adult who cared enough to help through the very worst part…the beginning of treatment, which started at 38 years of age. Before that, I survived on my own…and no one had a clue what was happening. My earliest hallucinations remembered are from about the age of five. They only got worse from there. Yet I have held down jobs, very successfully, lived as a functional, “normal” person, gotten over addictions, and held my own. I don’t even carry an axe in my car.
        But then, sarcastic comments like yours are a clear indicator as to why the system fails. It is the society that supports it, and the people who make up that society who won’t understand the facts. Personally, I think the “normal” folks are far more dangerous than they’re willing to admit…because they create all of the miserable, faulty laws that imperil so many lives, and ignore all of the obvious warnings, and refuse to help those among them who so desperately need it. Crazies don’t need help, we need to be disappeared.

      • avatar Sianne S says:

        Ah, Briana, I love your comments.  They are always informative, even if a bit long-winded.  However, I don’t think CanGal was being sarcastic at all.  She was simply providing a counterpoint to someone’s point, as you yourself (and most of the rest of us) so often do.  Insulting and generalizing don’t help a discussion any, no matter which direction they come from.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        The problem is that I still don’t know precisely which comment she was providing a counterpoint to, and I found her comment to be snarky and insulting myself, and not at all helpful to the thread. Had she bothered to explain herself, or provide some foundation for her reply, it might have explained all.
        How does pointing out the violent act of one individual, without providing background for the case, or relating it to a previous comment, help a conversation like this?
        If you found my comment insulting, I apologize, because it wasn’t meant as an insult, but an exasperated expression of how I feel when people respond with unclear, and seemingly offensive rejoinders. I’m also sorry that I’m “long-winded”. I spent 30 years not speaking to anyone. I have a lot to say, and I don’t use text-speak. And I learned to write under interesting circumstances.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Don’t ever apologize for trying to educate people. 

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        O, Baby, it’s a knee-jerk reaction that I learned while I was still wearing little patent-leather Mary Jane shoes (and killing every single pair, because they were so ugly). Always apologize for being intelligent, or for being educated, or for staking your claim. You have a Giant Brain…and don’t you dare use it.
        That’s why I spent over 30 years in self-imposed silence. I get a wee bit frustrated with the “long-winded” comments. I started out reading books that were a tad lengthy (unabridged Moby Dick, the whole Bible, and The Once and Future King in third grade, at the age of eight), and they taught me the value and beauty of words, and self-expression as an art form. I learned to write by studying poets (e.e. cummings, T.S. Elliot, William Carlos Williams, Shakespeare, and Coleridge), and a wide variety of writers who could pour words like light and rain onto pages.
        I don’t usually speak the way that I write. I am muckle-mouthed, have occasional problems with “R’s”, and “S’s” and hard consonants, and my mind moves far too fast. I am not comfortable discussing ideas with people. I am graced with a brilliant husband, and two good female friends who have the love and kindness to actually ask me what the hell I’m talking about when I do get off on a roll. If someone duns me for “talking smart” I will shut down, because I am not confrontational, and I dislike conversing with clods.
        So, I will truly attempt to quit apologizing, especially when no ill-will was intended. Thanks Mother darling. She did make Joan Crawford as portrayed in Mommie Dearest look like a saint, and my mommie never even lifted a finger.

      • avatar Sianne S says:

        Well I’m glad you don’t use “text speak”.  Too many people do, and I find it insulting to the English language.  More “dinosaurs” please, to quote the comments from LAST Margo’s column.
        Eh, perhaps it would have been more helpful if she’d said which she was referring to, though sometimes I think it’s hard, when you’ve got three or more people providing a lengthy conversation, to pick one part out and say “This is what I don’t agree with, and why” without going into great detail and providing several subpoints.  There’s nothing wrong with doing that, if you’ve got the time and energy, but most of the time, people don’t.
        (Apologies if this reply is a bit incomprehensible, doctor changed my pain meds and the new ones are a bit strong.  Hello, loopy time!)

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Seems to me you are now facing “double trouble.” I would quit attending that church and walk away from this friendship as quietly as possible — mostly because of your friend’s “new friend” who likely is jealous of you; if that’s so, he/she might try to cause all sorts of problems — either for you directly, or between you and friend. If you do bow out of the friendship, don’t argue with the friend or try to discuss it; her reasoning skills are seriously impaired as you already know, and it’d be an exercise in futility. If you do break off the friendship, be prepared for the “new friend” to go on the attack. You seriously need to get out of this friendship. I’ve dealt with two mentally ill people in my life, one as a very close friend and the other as a new acquaintance who happened to be where I needed to be at the time. I’m genuinely sorry for these folks and their troubles, but if their family/spouses cannot see the situation and get them help, then ultimately it’s nothing but ongoing heartache and stress for you. The 2nd mentally ill person decided, based on unfounded gossip she’d heard about me, that I was her born enemy. She fought and argued with others about my presence at that place, was rude and hostile continually. Her husband was in denial and couldn’t or wouldn’t seek help for her. Eventually I had to walk away, especially as I became afraid of being physically attacked by her. Ultimately your friend’s situation is in the care of FAMILY. You can notify and appraise them, then walk away…you’d done your bit.

  5. avatar Lila says:

    Margo, you had me laughing over the suggestion to get a cat and take him to the park on a leash.  Yes, I have seen it done too… but not in our house!
    Being military and moving a lot, we thought training our cats to the leash would be a good idea, and we tried to get them used to this in their youth.  Unfortunately, one cat would panic and go ballistic, and the other would just lie down on his side and become completely passive.  The effect to the viewer was that we appeared to have one psychotic, flailing cat about to rip one arm off, while the other arm was dragging what looked like a possibly dead animal.
    Those attempts didn’t last long.

    • avatar Sarah Dinges says:

      Just FYI, if you are ever inclined to try again: lying down and becoming passive is the most common cat reaction to a new leash. In theory, if you keep putting the leash/harness on them every day, they will eventually get used to it.
      I’ve only successfully trained one cat to really like the leash and take walks though, and he was an outdoor cat who got moved into an apartment. He was willing to put up with the leash in order to indulge his love of the outdoors. Any other cat I’ve tried it with, even once they got used to having the leash on, preferred to sit around and wouldn’t cooperate in going very far.

    • avatar AngelaM. says:

      We’ve leash trained our Bengal cat, Leonidas (Leo).  He’d been kept in a small cage his entire life, never getting to leave it until the police raided the hoarder who kept dozens of cats and dogs in the basement in small cages.  Being a curious kitty, he was always looking out the windows and trying his darndest to get at the birds, squirrels, etc.  So we bought a harness for him and it only took about a week to get him trained.
      At first, he’d flip out and do the psychotic cat thing that Lila described, but we’d just let him.  Once he calmed down, he got a treat and he got to go outside on very short, supervised walks.  We praised him profusely when he wasn’t fighting the harness.  Next day, we did the same thing.  Just waited out the crazy flailing cat stage until he was calmer and then gave him treats, love and a short walk.  After about a week, he realized that fighting wasn’t going to do any good and he’d just give us the “i hate you” cat stare until we gave him a treat.  After two weeks, he realized that the only way he was going outside was on the harness and he’d come running (literally, a flat out sprint) when he heard us jingling his harness.  He doesn’t love getting the harness on, but he’s one happy kitty once it’s secured and he knows he’s about to go outside!
      We do get lots of funny looks when we’re walking Leo in our neighborhood.  “Oh, what a tiny… wait, that’s a cat!? What the…” from the neighbors.  Leo loves frolicking in the grass, chasing bugs and scampering around in our big maple tree.  Anytime I’m having a bad day, Leo cheers me up.  He seems to know when I need to be comforted, and he’ll come over and give me little kitty kisses and head butt me until I pet him.  He’ll also meet at the door when I come home from work almost every day and promptly flop over so I can rub his belly while he purrs and rolls around with joy.  He’s been with us just under a year and he’s the sweetest cat I’ve ever known.  He’s feisty and opinionated, but entirely lovable and fun.
      The Bengal breed tends to be more dog-like than many cats, which has worked out very well for us.  He likes to play with the oddest toys, especially the little safety seals on a gallon of milk, and loves to bat at his water bowl.  Very fun.  Anyone who wants the ease of care of a cat but the “OMG, you’re home!!! Yay!!! I love you!” antics of a dog should look into the Bengal breed.  I’d also encourage rescuing a pet rather than buying one from a breeder if that’s possible.  (It makes those ASPCA commercials with the Sarah McLaughlin songs a bit easier for me to bear since I know we’ve rescued at least one animal who could have been in the commercial.) has a list of Bengals available to be adopted.  Many Bengals have been leash trained successfully- we’re working on teaching Leo to fetch (he’s doing pretty well so far!).

      • avatar AngelaM. says:

        PS: My avatar picture is of Leo.  He’s wearing his red harness and is in his tree.

      • avatar Lila says:

        What a story.  Both our cats are from shelters; our flailing psycho cat is a gray tabby.  Like your Leo, he is very sociable, would meet me at the door and then ride my shoulder into the kitchen, watches TV (really!), and fetches, at least until he is tired of the game.  He has been quite a little person.  Unfortunately he now has cancer and we are touch-and-go on the decision of when to put him down; but even at age 18, high-maintenance, frail and ill, he still plays and is so engaged with us.  May you have at least as many happy years with your young Leo.

      • avatar AngelaM. says:

        Hi Lila,
        I’m sorry to hear that your buddy is ill now.  It’s such a hard decision and terrible feeling, and you’ll be in my thoughts.  I hope that everything goes as smoothly and calmly as possible for you and your furry friend.  Best wishes to you during this time.

  6. avatar Karen Lauer says:

    Another suggestion for a small pet is a bird.  I had a wonderful little budgie that was hand-fed, and he chattered away incessantly.  (If you get a male, you can teach them to speak).  I used to spoil him with little toys and treats and budgies are perfectly quiet at night (they generally won’t make any noise in the dark).  Granted, they are not likely to get you out of the house, but they do make sweet little companions. 

  7. avatar Donna H says:

    I’ve seen a man walk his cat on a leash in my neighborhood.   Having been owned by cats most of my life, I had trouble wrapping my head around the fact that a cat would consent to being put on a leash.  He said it took two years to get his cat to accept the leash.
    I went home to suggest to my cats that they might like to go for a walk on a leash.  My owners replied with  ridicule & sneering disdain.  The idea never got off the drawing board.

    • avatar moonrevenge says:

      I fostered a cat who walked on a leash. The first thing I learned is that people do not walk cats; cats walk people. :)
      I think part of the reason this cat accepted the leash is that it was the only way he was going outside.

      • avatar AngelaM. says:

        I’ve never had an animal buddy I could walk.  I was always walked by them!  Leo’s no different, he’s the best little leash-walking cat in the world as long as you go where he wants to go.  If you try to pull him away from some smelly spot or a bug on the grass, he digs those claws into the grass and lets loose with a blood-curdling howl.  So usually I’ll just go where he wants to go (within reason, of course, never into the road no matter how much he wants to chase the neighbor’s car – he really does think he’s a dog!) for as long as he wants to be there.  During pretty weather, I’ll take a book or my laptop outside and we’ll chill out in the grass until he gets antsy.  He’s the king of the castle for sure!

  8. avatar JC Dill says:

    For LW #1, I’m surprised that no one has mentioned talking with the priest, pastor, or minister of the church. It’s possible that the mentally ill friend has kept their paranoia hidden from the church leader, so the church leader doesn’t know. While LW #1 is not in any position to help the person get the medical help they need, the church leader may be able to counsel the person to get help.

    • avatar Legal Eagle says:

      I thought about suggesting the LW inform the church minister, but if her friend believes there is a church conspiracy against her, she may not react well to talking with the church pastor/minister as she is likely to believe he is somehow involved in the conspiracy. But, if the woman thinks well of her pastor, then this might be a good avenue.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      If they don’t try a nice little afternoon exorcism…

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I missed this one somehow. I just love the recent “resurgence” of the “rite of exorcism” which I suspect will be the next excuse for the pedophile priests. The pope tried to pass it off to “societal mores” in Ireland.  So I guess all that’s left is “the devil made them do it.”

        If Jesus were alive today, he would have been locked up long ago. And quite honestly quite a few of his flock need to be. Particularly the ones wearing the cute little collars.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Actually, a number of Protestant churches have picked up on this repulsive little ritual. The frightening thin about exorcism is that there is an actual psychological condition known as somnambuliform possession that causes the individual to believe that they are possessed by a spirit, or even a demon. The symptomology is universal regardless of the religious beliefs of the sufferer, including vomiting, diarrhea, speaking in an “unknown” language, contortion of the body, flicking of the tongue, rapid eye movement, disassociation, “telepathy”, “telekinesis” and the appearance of stigmata.
        Unfortunately, a ritual such as exorcism can serve to convince someone who is going through such a psychosis that they really are possessed, and the ensuing struggles (especially those recently recorded in certain Protestant churches, which were unsupervised by any sort of medical personnel) of a bound, dehydrated, hysterical, young person under enormous physical stress with an accelerated heart rate and resulting elevated blood pressure can cause seizures, stroke, heart failure, permanent brain damage and even death.
        At one time in the not-at-all-distant past, the Catholic Church had rigorous rules, strictures, and procedures for even considering an exorcism. These involved home studies of the victim’s environment, psychiatric and neurological evaluations, medical evaluations and studies of the victim’s previous knowledge of such procedures, of contact with foreign languages, and various tests to determine the validity of the claim. The majority were debunked. The rare cases in which an exorcism was allowed were often permitted more for psychological reasons than a belief in the existence of demons. As a number one detractor of the Holy See, I still must give them this…the Church denies the actual existence of demons. A physician must be present, as well as a psychological or neurological professional, to protect the victim and the priest from stress and exhaustion. It is a terrible, often disheartening affair, an frequently unsuccessful.
        But now we have such shows as Paranormal State and The Haunted that can’t be satisfied with ghosts and spirits. No, every single house and family investigated is suffering a demonic possession, and needs an exorcism. The frivolous prayers and splashing about of alleged holy water, and the mindless, ill-conceived, televised exorcisms chill me to the bone. Not because I believe in demons (I am an open-file skeptic, interested, but highly suspicious), but because of the deep psychological danger it presents to the gullible and impressionable…and because of the terrifying precedent for socially acceptable solutions these moronic acts set.
        It isn’t just priests, Baby. Deuteronomy is Old Testament, fire and brimstone writing, and that is where you’ll find the rites of exorcism used by scores of those who scorn the Roman collar. A frightening trend, indeed.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Of course, laying your hands on possessed innocents to drive out demons might suit all sorts of Holy Men, I’d wager.
        Good point, Baby. Just doing it for Jesus.

  9. avatar Mary says:

    Margo, I too sat here and laughed with the thought of walking cats on a leash.  I know it is done, but I look at my Bill and Chip and bust up laughing!  I cannot even get Bill and Chip to go outside, let alone would I be able to put a leash on them.  If I have to take them to a vet, I have to sneak them into the kitchen, where I can close the door thereby trapping them, and very quickly put a bath towel over them and butt first put them in a carrier.  They scream so loud they sound like children being tortured and as I drive only a few miles they attract serious attention that even with the windows up in a closed car passerby’s wonder if there is a child trapped in my car!

    If her landlord will allow a cat, she could very easily have a indoor cat, I will send her Bill.  Officially named Bill Gates, loves playing on the computer, ( yes, I said computer, loves   He IS a Big Boy at 35 lbs, but a great companion.  He loves to be loved and is especially fond of Meow Mix.   Sometimes a landlord will agree to a cat if the tennant agrees to pay a small pet deposit. 

  10. avatar j d says:

    LW2: You actually may have some legal rights to keep a dog to aid with your depression. Your dog would be considered an “ESA” – Emotional Support Animal. There are some rights to have an ESA in no-pet housing. It is not a service animal (one that you could take into stores), but it does provide a benefit that is recognized as necessary to your health.
    From “The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the right of people with disabilities to keep emotional support animals, even when a landlord’s policy explicitly prohibits pets. Because emotional support and service animals are not “pets,” but rather are considered to be more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs, the law will generally require the landlord to make an exception to its “no pet” policy so that a tenant with a disability can fully use and enjoy his or her dwelling. In most housing complexes, so long as the tenant has a letter or prescription from an appropriate professional, such as a therapist or physician, and meets the definition of a person with a disability, he or she is entitled to a reasonable accommodation that would allow an emotional support animal in the apartment.”
    There are some resources to help you – I would recommend taking steps such as the following:
    And a helpful book about legal rights surrounding dogs:
    I’m sure there are other great resources out there – but hopefully those will get you started.
    Good luck!  I adopted a dog when I was going through an extremely rough patch of tremendous stress, and it absolutely made a miraculous difference in my life. So much so that people who barely knew me noted how much I changed. I was able to finally cope with stress. I also volunteer at shelters (sort of as “pay back” for all the help this dog provided me), and while it can help it most likely won’t help as much as caring for an animal of your own does. If you need to go the shelter route, I’d inquire about programs where you can take the dogs on “field trips” (essentially, day long outings – sometimes you need to volunteer for a couple months before this is an option). The exercise you gain from regular walks is also very therapeutic. And please consider the above, you do have the right for a therapeutic pet, and the right to find happiness – people do use the fair housing act mentioned above and gain the right to have an animal, even in very difficult cases. Best of luck.

  11. avatar Michele Dahlberg says:

    Pets may not be allowed to live in her apartment, but perhaps she can set up visits with therapy dogs. My brother and sister-in-law have had their dogs certified as therapy dogs and go visit people and places regularly.

  12. avatar Lisa D says:

    Speaking of checking in with therapists…
    When I was pregnant with my second child, I had terrible prenatial depression. My ob suggested that I get treated by our HMO psych department. Three separate therapists insisted that they couldn’t give me therapy because I wasn’t depressed, I was preganant (you’d think my ob would have picked up on that…) — but it was absolutely vital that I go on antidepressants.
    The illogic made my head hurt. I’ve still never understood why they wanted me to go on a drug that caused heart defects in fetuses for a condition I “didn’t have”.
    Sorry – don’t trust them.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I would never even discuss anything with anyone unless they have an “MD” after their name after my experience with two friends who “diagnosed” me on the basis of their “training” which seems to be reflective of most of the “training” and I really don’t care what anyone thinks about my saying so.  Some are them are dangerous. That includes my two friends. Both of whom became former friends after they both attempted to claim they had suggested I see a doctor. Both simply sat there on the phone with prescription pad in hand so to speak.  We have become a “pill-crazy” society and, again, some of the crazy is caused by the pills. Unfortunately in both the private and public health care systems you are left with the “licensed therapists” and the “clinical psychologists” and have to have a checkbook to talk with Dr. Freud.  In your case I would have run for my life. Which apparently is what you did. 

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Lousy OB, obviously, since blood pressure changes, thyroid problems and pregnancy related diabetes would have been more logical thoughts. Your first problem was the OB, secondarily the therapists…obviously, since I was in therapy for one hour a week through my entire second pregnancy with my psychiatrist. There are also more subtle issues that occur during pregnancy that can cause depression. I know, because my OB and my psychiatrist had a whole list of them…I was monitored closely for the whole nine months, weight, blood sugar, caffeine, fat and sugar intake, exercise levels, sleep…you name it.
      I really don’t understand the antidepressant thing, but two therapists highly reminiscent of Beavis and Butthead do not represent the entire psychological profession. Also, having had a certain amount of experience with HMO doctors long ago, may I delicately suggest that they may have gotten their licenses to practice from Wal-Mart?

  13. avatar Allies Mom says:

    On cats with leashes…cats CAN be trained to be comfortable on a harness and leash.   I have a cat I adopted from an open admission shelter that loves to poke around outside – on her leash.   However, it takes a LOT of patience, particularly if the cat is older.    It is relatively easy if you start when they are about 3-4 months old. Buy a comfortable harness (not skinny straps) and start by simply letting the cat be around the harness, playing and giving treats to build positive associations.    Eventually put the harness on, acting as though this is the best thing that could happen to the kitten.   

    Patience!   The kitty will likely bite at it and try to get it off, but keep distracting and only keep on for short times, gradually increasing the time.   Eventually attach the leash, let her drag it at first (supervised).   Then you hold the leash, short periods, lots of praise and distraction.    When she is able to be calm, take for VERY small doses in a quiet place outside, preferably enclosed until you know she won’t go nuts at the wind or outside sounds she hasn’t heard before.  Over weeks, she will enjoy her outings and although with most cats it will never be like walking a dog, you can grant her the joy of experiencing the outdoors safely.   

    Another option is a kitty stroller (google it).    Enjoy the second takes you get as people realize there is a cat inside and not a baby! 

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      I can just picture attempting to walk my twelve highly individual hairballs on rhinestone-studded figure-eight harnesses (actually 20+ pound, psycho, coal black Solzhenitsen might require one with pointy steel studs. I’d have to ask him). What a rare delight that would be…for everyone watching. I’d be dragging a few like kitty corpses, some would be trying to climb my legs, others would be howling, and a couple would be trying to explore. Mostly, the fuzzy slugs enjoy a warm spot in the sun, a lap, pet-the-cat, and an occasional bout of mad-cat for no particular reason. O, and vomiting hairballs for me to squish through in the dark.
      However, we did once have a vicious, sneaky, evil beast named Matilda who loved to be outside in the yard on a figure-eight harness and long, very light-weight chain (arranged so that there was nothing for it to tangle up in). Everyone in the neighborhood put their cats out like that on warm afternoons (and they were all spayed or neutered as well). We’d put her out with our bull terrier, Spook (better you don’t ask, but her real name was Silverwood;s Ghost). also on a stout chain. They would lounge comfortably in the warm air for a while, then come in and snooze. What a life…

  14. avatar Gerry Schwartz says:

    LW2 says she’s “stuck in a lease so moving isn’t an option.”   Last I looked, leases don’t last forever.  And she didn’t sign it yesterday.  Take the advice here to volunteer in an animal shelter. Or go to a local dog park and befriend the owners and animals there.
    Then when your lease expires, which will be in less than a year, you can move to a building that allows dogs.

  15. avatar elaine s says:

    Dogs are wonderful friends and can be very therapeutic.  I had two wonderful dogs to love during the darkest years of my life.  When they passed away, I never expected to have that kind of loving friendship again.  Years passed, and I got one cat, then a companion for that cat. I have been amazed that they can be the same kind of great friend to you that a dog can be.  One of my cats has become a true soul mate, just as one of my dogs was.  I am sure they will be great friends in heaven someday…as they are so much alike.   Yes, I have even walked one of the cats on a leash.  The other one won’t even consider it. We tried it once and he jumped so high he was able to literally back out of the headgear and run.  The leash apparatus we have consists of a walking jacket, so it latches on the body portion of the cat, as well as around the neck.  This is the only way to have a fighting chance in keeping a cat on a leash, in my experience.   If the letter writer ends up with a cat, she can find a stroller for animals online.  It has a net covering, so the cat can’t get out.  This would ensure she and the cat got out for walks, which would be great.  Good luck to the letter writer.  God gave us pets for so many good reasons! 

  16. avatar Jessy Bowdoin says:

    Padawan’s servent [my hubby] was walking him the other day. Our neighborhood patrol police vehicle came by. The officer had to stop and take a second look. Took ourt his cell phone and took a picture to send to his girlfriend. We adopted Padawan from an animal shelter when he was about 7-8 months old. Just a month ago we tried out the dog harness/leash. At first he wasn’t a happy camper. Know he purrs when hubby starts to put the harness on. Oh, almost forgot to tell why we adopted him. Our daughter was “cat sitting” for Tigger while we went out of town. He ran away from her place. never to come back. So after about 3-4 weeks hubby let me know he missed Tigger. We started talking about adopting. And then along came Padawan. My hubby’s mood improved greatly.

  17. avatar Linda Myers says:

    #1 Unless you are family, I would take Margo’s advice and distance your self for awhile – maybe regroup and see how you feel after having some space from her. Unless she wants the help, even family with the best of intentions can not always save somebody who is mentally ill. My uncle when I was younger did all he could for my aunt, her parents did all they could and still one day she spent the day being pampered at a salon, buying a new dress and returning home to kill herself.
    #2 Right now, my dog is being a service animal of sorts to a friend who became deeply depressed earlier this year. I have seen wonderful changes just from her being able to “take care” of him and giving her something to wake up and be excited about. Overall her emotional outlook is working towards a 360 turn from being with him. Although at first she was not sure and clearly stating she was a little dog person and he is a Pyrneese mix. I miss all the parts of him right now she is receiving but I know and am happy for the change at the same time. If she can not have a dog long term, maybe there is someone out there who could lend her one for a shorter period due to the regulations. I do put a leash on my cat when taking him in the kennel to the vet, etc., knowing he hates the kennel and I can grab the leash before he darts. Having him walk on a leash would be major feat. I would probably be saying bye bye kitty on that one.

  18. avatar V B says:

    I have news for you.  There isn’t anything a family member can do to help a victim of paranoia.  Even if you call a mental health professional for an assessment and they come, there just isn’t anything they can do unless they are dangerous in front of them.  Once they stick a knife in your back its a bit late.  

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Not entirely true, V B. A great deal depends on whether the person is under the care of a psychiatrist, and the State in which one resides. Been there personally (no waving knives, I assure you, just a break involving voices telling me that I really should remove myself from amongst the living), my older son (who was not dangerous in front of anyone but family…and could have been involuntarily committed), and at least one other individual of no genetic relation.
      It also depends on how one defines “dangerous”, and to whom, and whether or not the State of residence allows involuntary committal based on the individual (not victim) being a danger to herself. “Paranoia” can easily be assessed as a high risk to everyone.
      Of course, then there are the mentally ill who should be institutionalized for their own, and everyone’s sake, because they need professional supervision, but are outside the system because our mental health care is sparse and deplorable…or because their families can’t afford it (but any sort of universal health care is a terrible idea)…or because their families are in denial. When these people don’t take their medication properly, or remain unmedicated, and have a break, or even act out, the first responders are usually EMT’s, who are not trained to deal with psychological problems…and the police…who have to deal with a potential threat as they see necessary.
      Sometimes things work out, and sometimes there are tragic consequences. I am not blaming anyone. In Houston, we have a Mental Health Unit, and you can list a potentially difficult family member with this unit. so that they will (hopefully) be the first responders. However, should the individual be determined to be a risk, or at risk, the will be placed in a lock-down under 72 hour involuntary psychiatric hold. But if a regular unit responds, it depends on the officers, the individual in question, and the degree of aggression, potential for actual harm, the intelligence and judgment of the officers, and how delusional or reachable the individual is. As a person with mental illnesses, I don’t expect law officers to allow themselves to be injured or killed by someone in the grip of full-blown paranoid psychosis…and they are not trained to deal with someone who is psychotic.
      But it is a tragedy when someone who is frightened, delusional, and incapable of rationality…and untreated (and unable to be responsible for their own treatment)…is shot and killed…even as it is a tragedy when such a person “sticks a knife in your back”. Sadly, there are many victims of society’s neglect of the mentally ill.

  19. avatar chuck alien says:

    if your church is poisoning you… wouldn’t you find a different church?