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Harassed by my schizphrenic neighbor
June 17, 2009 10:50 AM   Subscribe

My downstairs neighbor, who is most likely schizophrenic, has been harassing my wife and me. Our landlord seems unenthusiastic about evicting her, and we are unenthusiastic about moving ourselves. What legal options can I pursue? Does anyone in Chicago have personal experience with a (cheap!) lawyer they might recommend?

As far as I can tell there are two options:
1. Get her evicted somehow.
2. Force her to get on her medication.

Any insight on pursuing either option (or other options!) is greatly appreciated. Living peacefully with her below us is the ideal, but I'm not sure that is any longer an option.

Do you need a lawyer to get a restraining order? Can you get a restraining order against a neighbor in Illinois?

Here's the summary of our interactions with her:

August 2008: We move into this apartment

October 2008: She confronts me in our stairwell and accuses me of attacking her, causing hairs to grow places on her body, and black specks to show up and flake off of her. She tells me she wants to "live in peace" and that we need to move out.
We tell the landlord that she has confronted us and are told she is "mostly harmless.

March 2009: On a few occasions we hear intense screaming through the floor at night. We assume she is fighting with her boyfriend, but after deliberately listening through the floor we here yelling things like "you are trash", "move out", "this has been happening since August; why are you doing this to me?", "if you don't move out I will kill you", "I will have you killed", "you are the lowest of the low".
We call the police, who tell her if she does not stop yelling and they have to come back that night that they will take her to a hospital. She stays quiet through the night, but yells at us the next day through the door. Our landlord says they will contact her ex-husband to see if he can help her get back on medication.

Three nights ago: Starting around 11:00 at night, she comes up to our door and yells at us to stop attacking her, etc. We called the police, who came up to our apartment to discuss what was going on. While they were there, she came up and again yelled at us. They confronted her, on our doorstep, and told her to get back on her medication. She told them that we need to stop using our ray gun to attack her through the floor. They told us there was nothing they could do because "[their] hands were tied". We contact our landlord again, who says he will send her a "ten day notice", saying that she needs to correct her behaviour or there will be consequences, perhaps even eviction. The landlord asks us if we want to move to another unit "whenever one becomes available."

Two nights ago: She leaves a note by the apartment mailboxes saying that we have "beared [sic] false witness against a neighbor" by lying to the police and that "there are penalties for your actions". We notify our landlord that things aren't getting better and email them a scanned copy.

Last night: Sometime between 10:30 and 11:30 PM she came up and taped another note to our door. Same tone as before. We send our landlord a copy of this note as well and are told that they are "drafting a letter right now" to send to her about the ten days notice.

I am trying to be straightforward in my descriptions here, but my wife and I are creeped the fuck out (especially after the death threats in March) and hate going to and from our apartment because we have to walk past her door and never know when we might run into her. This is three nights in a row that she has done something, and we are afraid that things are going to get worse, and not better.

The landlord doesn't seem to want to evict her and would rather move us into another unit in the building, which I personally don't see helping the situation; she'll still be able to walk up to our front door. Evicting her might make her even more aggressive, but even knowing where we live it would be far more difficult for her to get to our doorstep and confront us in our building. The police seems to be in a "well, she's not acting violent so we can't take her in to a hospital" situation, although medication seems to be the best (although perhaps temporary) fix, as no one has to move.

Thanks for any help.
posted by ztdavis to Law & Government (47 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
the sad thing is this isn't the first time i've seen this question in a.mefi. sorry i can't offer help, but check the archives...i'm pretty sure there are some good discussions around this one.
posted by SeƱor Pantalones at 10:54 AM on June 17, 2009


I'd keep calling the police at each opportunity, especially for the 4am type incidents, especially if THAT inconveniences the landlord. Or find other ways for it to be a pain to the landlord over and over again, rather than just talking to him and TELLING him it's annoying.

Of course, I am kind of an asshole. Maybe there's a kinder way.
posted by rokusan at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I can't promise this'll help, but I googled tenants rights chicago and the first few hits are all organizations that might be able to offer advice or at least recommend a lawyer.
posted by Xalf at 10:57 AM on June 17, 2009


Maybe the landlord could offer to move HER to another unit? Or convince her that eviction is her way of getting away from your "raygun"?

If not, and she is not evicted in a few days, I would consider moving. I know it sucks, and I know you don't want to do this, but I would be as creeped out as you and your wife are, and though she may well be harmless, do you really want to put this to the test?
posted by misha at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2009


Previous, similar question.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:11 AM on June 17, 2009


Call the police if you feel threatened, go to your local precinct on off hours (Saturday or Sunday morning) and talk to an officer on desk duty and explain your concerns. If you establish with the local precinct that the person has a mental health history (bring the notes to show them), they will be more likely to respond with the intent of involunatrily committing the person as a threat to the community in an emergency situation, rather than just lock the person up like it's a typical domestic issue. Once involuntarily committed, your neighbor will be given the opportunity to take medication and likely be referred to out patient treatment, but after short duration, most likely 72 hours, your neighbor will be released. At that point whether your neighbor takes medication or engages in treatment is your neighbor's choice. There is no forced medicating anymore, you need a court order that is very hard to obtain to forcbily medicate somone against their will.
posted by The Straightener at 11:12 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


No one can "make" her take medication unless someone in her family pursues guardianship and becomes her legal guardian. Sorry. You'd be best to drop that idea which is also sort of offensive. She's an adult, even if she's crazy.

A family member actually had something similar happen and had to go to court to get this person to desist. You can MeMail me for details.
posted by liketitanic at 11:16 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Call the police each time you recieve a threat. Provide them with the notes as well as the date and time of the incident. Speak to a lawyer in your area knowleadgable in tenant law. He or she will know what available options you have, and can give you qualified advice.

Make sure to write down and document each and every instance in which you feel threatened. Also make sure to document the times and place you spoke to the police and the landlords, who you spoke to, the substance of the conversation, etc. Provide this documentation to your lawyerr
posted by HabeasCorpus at 11:16 AM on June 17, 2009


2. Force her to get on her medication.
You do not have any rights to do this.


Keep calling the landlord to complain whenever absolutely anything happens. Keep calling the police whenever she disturbs you. Consult with an attorney about tenants' rights. Consider that you may need to move at some point, due to the inactivity of the landlord on this issue.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:17 AM on June 17, 2009


Also, be very careful about actively working to secure her eviction. She's already convinced that you're out to get her. If she has actual knowledge that this is true, she might escalate. (And even if she's forced out of the apartment, she still knows where you live.)

A restraining order might not do much to stop a mentally disturbed person who can't understand its purpose. This will be especially true since she'll essentially be barred from setting foot on a portion of her own turf -- her building. That would be another escalation that a) she wouldn't understand and probably couldn't stick with, and b) would make her think you're out to get her.

I totally understand your frustration, but I think your best course of action (second only to consulting attorneys familiar with housing AND mental health issues) is to keep pestering the landlord. It's HIS responsibility. If you're at risk, HE needs to be the public face of the problem -- not you and your TRO.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:17 AM on June 17, 2009


Oh, and you can try to get a restraining order but if you live in an apartment building it might make things tricky. From what I understand, judge's aren't usually willing to sign an order that would make a person homeless if they complied with it. You can bring this question to the officer on desk duty at your local precinct when you meet with them.
posted by The Straightener at 11:18 AM on June 17, 2009


First of all, I feel for everyone in this situation. It seems like there is no correct answer - no matter what happens, someone loses.

Having been on the landlord side of this one, I do know anything that leads to your neighbor being back on her meds is a good thing. But here's the catch - even if she goes back on her meds, she'll go off them again and the situation will start up all over again. It is likely her disease has progressed to the point where she might be better off in some type of supervised or semi-supervised environment. I'm sure the threats are frightening, and I'm sure you realize the other side of this situation is that your neighbor is suffering. Your landlord probably just doesn't know how to handle all this. The bottom line is that the longer she remains in her apartment living alone, the worse her behavior will become. Sooner or later your landlord will have to confront the situation and take decisive action, but I can tell from his actions thus far, it won't be soon enough to improve your situation or assure your safety.

Sadly, it is time for you and your wife to make other arrangements and move to a new place.

I will be happy to discuss my experiences with this situation at length via email. (As metafilter members we can get in touch with each other via this site - yes?) I'm sure it is disappointing to hear there is pretty much nothing you or your landlord can do at this stage to regulate your neighbor's behavior or medical condition... but there you have it.

Life is short. You are a tenant and free to give notice to find a more appropriate living situation at any time. Go do that:))
posted by jbenben at 11:19 AM on June 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


The thing is that the landlord is following procedure. Put yourself in his shoes for a moment--he's risking all kinds of exposure, to both a civil lawsuit and perhaps action by the city, if he evicts someone who's mentally ill without due process.

If you move to another unit in the building, she might actually turn her attentions to the neighbor rather than to you, because the thing that triggered her is almost certainly your proximity. If she's disorganized enough to behave like this in front of police, she's probably too disorganized to follow you to your new apartment.

Here's what the landlord isn't going to do: evict the woman. I feel for you, and I bet he does too, but the bottom line is that that's too risky for him.

Here's what the police aren't going to do: involuntarily commit the woman. Again, I feel for you, and I bet they do too, but they're unlikely to have the legal leverage to make that happen.

So given that those two options are off the table, the question for you is this: what kind of outcome do you want? Do you want out of your lease, and to have the landlord pay for your moving expenses? I bet you can negotiate that. Do you want a new apartment in the building, with moving expenses paid for by the landlord? You can almost certainly negotiate that. I'd also insist on a month's free rent in compensation for your inconvenience.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:19 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with jbenben -- you can't fix this situation, so the best course of action is probably to distance yourself as far from it as possible. Moving sucks, but getting away from this sounds like it'll be worth it.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 11:21 AM on June 17, 2009


I tried to find some info about Chicago's services for people in a mental health crisis, but the city's website didn't have anything that looked familiar to me. Chicago does have a 311 system, however, and I suggest you call them. I would be surprised if Chicago didn't have something like New York's Adult Protective Services (city agency) and mobile crisis teams (city-funded units at hospitals), which assess people like your neighbor. In addition to calling 311, try calling the Chicago NAMI chapter. This page looks like it could have some useful phone numbers. Finally, you might try going to your local precinct and talking to someone there about your problem. If she seems to be a danger to herself or others, the police can take her to a hospital for an emergency evaluation. This is more likely to happen if you aren't having to deal with whoever shows up every time you call--they won't know the history.
posted by Mavri at 11:24 AM on June 17, 2009


You need to move. If she thinks you're harming her just by living next door, can you imagine the shitstorm that will rain down on you if you've actually accomplished an eviction?
posted by jefficator at 11:34 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Others here have responded in much more measured ways than my initial reaction, so I'm rewriting it a bit in light of that.

I do not know schizophrenic behavior well enough to know, with people such as your neighbor, how often they actually carry through with the threats they make. My first reaction was predicated upon the concept that if she says she is going to do something, she will do it, and for all I know, that may not be the truth, or even common. Then again, perhaps it is.

My initial reaction was an urgent, immediate statement that you and your wife's life is in danger and you need to treat this an emergency situation. I still feel that this is a strong possibility – in fact, so strong of a possibility that, for safety's sake, your behavior should now be predicated on that assumption, that she is a mortal danger to your lives.

From what your post describes, she has held a belief for eight months that you and your wife are maliciously acting upon her, and, beginning three days ago, the frequency of her confrontations stepped up to daily confrontations.

That makes me fear that she is escalating to something. She has repeatedly threatened to kill you and your wife, and three days ago warned you that there would be "penalties" for you bringing the cops and landlord in to attempt to resolve this.

In September, we had a person who asked Ask Metafilter about how she could handle her boyfriend's suicide by self-immolation. A lot of people gave her advice. She chose to take her own life two months later.

To me, your question mirrors her situation, because I honestly fear – based on my non-psychologically-expert layman's opinion – that the circumstances surrounding your Ask Metafilter question, just like the circumstances surrounding hers, may lead to your death.

As such, I would very strongly urge you to treat this situation as you would a life-threatening one. I believe (again, speaking from a position of no legal expertise) that this is a situation where, were your landlord to haul you into court to try to recoup costs from a broken lease, you would win. I would move to a whole other apartment building.

Alternatively, I would pack a bag with a week's worth of clothes and necessities and leave the apartment, taking shelter with any local friends I knew, and then proceed to begin a campaign of absolutely holy flipping hell with the police, social services, and your landlord.

Perhaps this urgent response isn't the way to go. I must admit that I even find myself shaking a little bit as I type this, and from the tone of other responses here thus far, perhaps everything I've said is an overreaction and others will say so. I nonetheless am greatly concerned for your welfare, and wish you safe passage through this ordeal.
posted by WCityMike at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sounds like a former neighbor of mine. In our case, we consistently contacted the police. They became so frustrated with the situation that they figured out a way to fine the property owner $1,000 every time they had to come out. The neighbor was evicted in short order.

You need to move. If she thinks you're harming her just by living next door, can you imagine the shitstorm that will rain down on you if you've actually accomplished an eviction?

We experienced no recrimination, but YMMV.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:48 AM on June 17, 2009


Ask a lawyer if you can start withholding rent.
posted by grobstein at 11:50 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The thing that strikes me is the possibility that, while she isn't mentally stable and she might be just... babbling, she might make good on the threats. And you're worried about it too. I don't know if evicting her is enough, really. She knows your address and likely, your names. Doesn't mean if she was evicted, she wouldn't harass you from afar.

For your own sake, you need to find out if she's become physical at any point or done this to other occupants (past or present) of the building. I don't know if the police can disclose any record she has, but your landlord most likely can and should. Your landlord said she was "mostly" harmless, which is simply not good enough to explain this woman's history.

Start keeping records of each and every time you had to call the police, landlord, etc.

And you know what? Yes, it's a pain in the ass to move. But what's better? Moving or living with harassment and death threats on a regular basis? You need to get out of that building and not just in another apartment your landlord owns.

If your landlord won't let you out of the lease, tell them you're going to contact a lawyer because your 'quiet enjoyment' of the home is consistently disrupted and your life has been threatened and you do not feel safe.

Move.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:00 PM on June 17, 2009


Yeah, you have two real choices: Move out, or pressure your landlord into following through on dealing with the situation. Calling and putting up with a brushoff, which is what you've been doing if you let them get away with the whole "we'll mail it out in a couple days" shtick won't get it done. Tell them that so long as the situation goes on the apartment is not in a safe and liveable condition and they have two weeks to take care of it. In writing.
posted by Justinian at 12:08 PM on June 17, 2009


Just to echo what WCityMike said about the potential urgency of the situation, a crisis team once had to intervene on behalf of a schizophrenic roommate I once had. The extremely kind team members who came to our door couldn't get him services until the next morning, and begged me in no uncertain terms to not stay in the house with him alone that night, as they had seen people who were mentally ill do horrifyingly violent things because they weren't in their right minds.

I don't mean to paint all cases of schizophrenia with the same broad brush. And I know that moving is a royal pain in the ass. But better safe than sorry?


Give me her address. I can send her pictures of a ray gun and a note that says she needs to move out or I will use my ray gun. I will even leave one on her doorstep.


phrakture, WTF?
posted by corey flood at 12:11 PM on June 17, 2009


we are unenthusiastic about moving ourselves

I don't understand this statement given the situation(s) you are describing. Is there a good/strong reason you do not want to move? All the energy and stress you are putting into this problem would be better directed into finding a better place and moving. You are dealing with a mentally ill person who could do harm to you or themselves or someone else.

You seem to be approaching a problem by following rules/logic/reason -- just as the landlord is -- and the police, and so on. But the person creating this problem is mentally ill and is not following those "rules". This is a no-win scenario for you. Get yourself out of it now.
posted by jca at 12:15 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and OP: I'd echo WCityMike. Schizophrenia can spike unpredictably at the best of times with potentially dangerous -- even potentially lethal -- consequences, and here it seems like there's a clear and sudden escalation of her behaviour. That certainly doesn't mean she's definitely going to to try and kill you, and it's likely to be very difficult to get the police/social services to force treatment on her -- nevertheless you should make it clear to your landlord that you have valid reasons to consider this a highly dangerous situation, that he is failing to remedy.
posted by teresci at 12:18 PM on June 17, 2009


She has repeatedly threatened to kill you and your wife

This. It is very good to be compassionate towards people with problems, but death threats are serious business. Did you explicitly tell the police that she has threatened to kill you? If not, you need to, and they need to take this seriously. Her eviction will not make this problem go away. This is already a tragic situation for this poor woman, don't let it be one for you too.

(Disclosure: years ago a friend of my sister's was murdered by a schizophrenic whose threats were ignored, so I may have a biased "worst case scenario" take on this situation.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:19 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Exactly -- you wouldn't ignore "death threats" from a sane person -- why would you ignore them from a mentally ill person? There is no such thing as mostly harmless with regards to the professional diagnosis your landlord gave you about your neighbor.
posted by jca at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


This may not have occurred to your landlord, but: Ask him to call the emergency contact number she wrote down in her move-in packet. This woman is having a medical crisis. Ideally, a family member would be notified, so that person can help her get the help she needs.
posted by Houstonian at 12:28 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nthing that you need to move if at all possible.
posted by Lobster Garden at 12:44 PM on June 17, 2009


To get to an un-addressed part of your original question:
My cousin and I used to rent a beautiful converted loft in Lakeview, but were summarily effed by the landlords (I *really* don't want to get into it).

They fought us, over a small matter of several hundred dollars we didn't owe them. We took a principled stand, found an inexpensive (but VERY helpful) lawyer who stood up for us and our rights. I'm not sure if he'll be able to help you, or if he's even still in the city/in business, but I'd be happy to MeFiMail you his info (as well as anyone who might find this post in the future).

Best of luck. I understand why you don't feel you should have to move - you're not doing anything wrong! - but I am leaning with the others who are fearing for your safety. Please be careful.
posted by pkphy39 at 12:46 PM on June 17, 2009


I'm with the people telling you to get out of there, asap. Another apartment in the same building is not gonna cut it, but does your landlord own other buildings? Heck, maybe your landlord owns other buildings in a better neighborhood, or with nicer amenities, or closer to the train? After all you and he have both been through in this, he may be ready to cut you a deal and let you pay the same rent you pay now in a more expensive building.

If finagling a great apartment isn't an option, you at the very least have grounds to terminate your lease without penalty. Get the fee-free termination in writing from your landlord, get your security deposit back in full, and get your last month's rent pro-rated if you don't stay the full month. Also, get a glowing letter of recommendation from him, and see if he has any fellow-landlord buddies who will cut you a break as a favor.

Your neighbor's situation is tragic but there's nothing you can do to help her. Get yourself out.
posted by philotes at 12:47 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it were me, I would move. And I *hate* moving. Not to another unit in the same building, unless it's such a giant building that she will not see you/know that you're still around.

I know it's a pain in the ass, and you shouldn't have to be the one to move, but the police and your landlord haven't accomplished much, and it's getting worse not better. I can't think of what a private attorney would do for you, other than if you wanted some help negotiating with your landlord about payment for moving expenses, etc...

I don't see a restraining order stopping her if she's unfazed by the police talking to her. And I see eviction making her more concerned about you. Admittedly I don't know this area of the law, but I don't see how you force her onto medication.
posted by KAS at 12:55 PM on June 17, 2009


I am not your lawyer. Purely as a legal matter, courts in most states do have the right (by statute) to force mentally ill people to comply with treatment. This New York Times article from 2004 (about a decision of the state's highest court to uphold such a law) says some forty states have this kind of law on the books. I imagine it is quite difficult to actually get a court to do this, though.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:00 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know that popular culture tends to ascribe scary violence to people with schizophrenia, but, in fact, their rate of violent behavior is only slightly elevated from the general population (see May 2009 JAMA study). The rate increases if the person has a comorbid substance abuse disorder. Do you have any reason to think your neighbor is taking drugs?

I know lots of people are scared of people with schizophrenia - they can do strange things, but most are not violent. Most are really scared. It sounds like your neighbor is quite scared - it's a fairly common delusion to worry about being controlled by others and to try to fight back.

Certainly it might be wise to move if you think a violent event is coming up, or if her ongoing harassment it makes it too unpleasant to feel comfortable and safe at home. But if you think you might stay, you might want to learn about schizophrenia - Torrey's book, Surviving Schizophrenia is a good place to start to learn.

It's *really* hard to predict future dangerousness. Probably the best predictor is previous dangerousness - when your landlord said that she was "mostly harmless," was he talking about a previous violent episode? Or more like the kind of harassment you're now experiencing? It would be worthwhile to talk to him, and your other neighbors about what kind of things this person did prior to your arrival on the scene. Can you find out contact information for the people who lived in your place before you? Your neighbor may have been this way for a really long time, in which case she may be kind of "stable" with periodic eruptions that are likely related to stressful changes. Or the previous tenants may have left because they also felt unsafe or intruded upon by this person.

Illinois does seem to have a law that allows the community to insist that people with mental illness get treatment. You might want to learn more about how that law works.

We had a schizophrenic neighbor once, and it was much of the same story - his behavior on and off meds was really different. A bunch of neighbors got together without him and invited someone from the police station to come and meet with us. We all talked about the situation, our rights, (and his rights) and we all arrived at a consistent way of responding. One piece of advise we got was to tell the person with schizophrenia how we felt - we would say things to him like, "You scare me when you talk like that," or "I really don't feel comfortable talking with you now." It was really helpful to feel the neighbors' support and to know that the police had us on the radar. At one point, the guy threatened one of the neighbors. The police were called and he was arrested for "making a terrorist threat." One benefit of him being arrested was that they got him back on meds. Shortly after he got out, he moved away - we haven't heard from him again.
posted by jasper411 at 1:28 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Center Cannot Hold is an utterly fantastic book, written by a woman with severe paranoid schizophrenia.

Does your neighbor have family? Anyone who checks in on them? I'm assuming they have some way of paying rent... if the landlord won't do anything, maybe there's someone who knows her better that you could get in touch with?
posted by sarcasticah at 2:01 PM on June 17, 2009


Frankly, I'd move.

Absent that, I'd certainly invest in some form of self-protection immediately. I would consider a firearm; while that may not be appropriate given your location and environment, this may be one of the rare situations where it is prudent. I'd also consider pepper spray or other strong deterrents. You do not know what this person may be inspired to do; by definition, they seem to be crazy. She's threatened your wife's life- if you remain in the immediate area, you should certainly have some means of self-defense.

Which is why I'd leave- if her behavior is escalating, you cannot predict what she'll do- and you do not want to be in a situation where you are forced to hurt her, or have her hurt you and yours.
posted by jenkinsEar at 2:45 PM on June 17, 2009


try calling the Chicago NAMI chapter.

Seconding this. NAMI is a truly awesome organization and I'd take their advice over anyone's in this thread.
posted by desjardins at 3:02 PM on June 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


While it's true that schizophrenia is both more common and less violent than many people think, there is a pattern of escalation here that would make me very nervous about an oncoming break or episode.

- She's not stable, is in fact deteriorating as evidenced by the increased frequency of her activities in your direction.
- Most important: she has clearly fixated on you as her aggressor.

In these specific circumstances I would contact the police, additionally ask them to put me in contact with whatever group handles mental health issues in a public capacity in your area, and ask them for their advice and, if possible, for them to visit her, assess her condition, and determine if steps need to be taken.
I would also, personally, move away.
posted by Billegible at 4:00 PM on June 17, 2009


I can't emphasise enough how difficult it's going to be to evict this woman. Which, frankly, given that she is as vulnerable as she is, is exactly as it should be.

Given that, I would begin negotiations with your landlord to prematurely terminate your lease. Since he's offering you alternative but comparable accomodation, this may not be particularly easy either. This is where tenants rights organisations will be most useful to you.

FWIW, since you have not mentioned alcohol or drugs, I'm assuming your neighbour is not a substance abuser. Despite the threats, she is not likely to act violently toward you. There is an approximately 8.5% incidence of violence in schizophrenia patients without substance abuse issues, compared to a 5.3% incident rate in the general, non-schizophrenic population. She is, in fact, vastly more likely to kill herself than you, substance abuse or not.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:31 PM on June 17, 2009


Despite the threats, she is not likely to act violently toward you.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that the study from which you're drawing those percentages considers making threats a violent crime, at least when successfully prosecuted. So, for statistical purposes, she's already in that 8.5%.
posted by hades at 5:23 PM on June 17, 2009


hades:
Actually, I'm pretty sure that the study from which you're drawing those percentages considers making threats a violent crime, at least when successfully prosecuted. So, for statistical purposes, she's already in that 8.5%.


Citation needed. This is a British study using Swedish data. Under neither of those judicial systems would the threat of violence tabulated as a violent crime.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:50 PM on June 17, 2009


From the abstract of the paper cited by your link (italics mine):
Main Outcome Measure Violent crime (any criminal conviction for homicide, assault, robbery, arson, any sexual offense, illegal threats, or intimidation).
If you don't have access to the full article, I'd be happy to send you a copy.
posted by hades at 6:58 PM on June 17, 2009


God dammit, I've been waiting for years to say "citation needed" legitimately.

That's curious. I wonder what proportion of the 5.3% we're presumably talking about here were in fact for "illegal threats or intimidation." If we removed those people, wouldn't that actually lower the statistical likelihood of physical violence?

Obviously nobody wants to be threatened and intimidated, nor does anyone want to lose sleep because of a neighbour's behaviour. I do totally get that and I am not trying to diminish how stressful that is. Personally, however, I would be a lot more comfortable knowing that the likelihood of this person moving from threats to actual physical violence were statistically low.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:22 PM on June 17, 2009


I know that popular culture tends to ascribe scary violence to people with schizophrenia, but, in fact, their rate of violent behavior is only slightly elevated from the general population.

So, the likelihood of her following through on her threats of death and "consequences" is only slightly higher than the likelihood of a sane person's? What a relief.

Last time I checked, death threats, intimidation, and harassment were all illegal. Maybe she shouldn't be evicted into the street, but I'm sure there's a much better living situation for her than living alone with free reign and a strong proclivity to threaten, intimidate, and harass.

Meanwhile, get out.
posted by thebazilist at 8:54 PM on June 17, 2009


My initial reaction was an urgent, immediate statement that you and your wife's life is in danger and you need to treat this an emergency situation.

Ditto.

Get out now. I'd get into a hotel or stay with a friend tonight, and then maybe take a few days to see if the landlord can get her evicted, and then start looking for a permanent place to live elsewhere.

Sorry, but I take this sort of thing very seriously. You can't protect your family every moment. This is not a situation for lawyers or landlords. It's a situation for fleeing.

I know that popular culture tends to ascribe scary violence to people with schizophrenia, but, in fact, their rate of violent behavior is only slightly elevated from the general population.

If a member of the general population had made death threats to you repeatedly, I'd be telling you the same thing.

Get out now. I can't repeat that enough.
posted by mmoncur at 12:53 AM on June 18, 2009


She sounds like my neighbor, except I never heard him threaten me (other, unknown people, but presumably not me).

I'm in the process of moving, because my landlords were too reluctant to actually address the issue fully (they kept talking to him, but they really should have evicted him IMO). I felt fine moving within the same building, but I never had a direct confrontation with him or had to involve the police.

I think you should move. A restraining order against her will be useful; even if she understands it, she'll probably disregard it. Leave now, and keep a careful record of her behavior and the landlord's (lack of) response in the event that the landlord hassles you if you break a lease.

I re-read your question; I'm with those who suggesting moving out NOW because her behavior is escalating. Get a hotel or short-stay place until you can find another apartment. If you feel up to it, you might even be able to stick the landlord with the bill.
posted by motsque at 8:32 AM on June 18, 2009


As far as I can tell there are two options:
1. Get her evicted somehow.
2. Force her to get on her medication.


You can't force anyone to take medication. How does that even make sense?

You should move. If your landlord hasn't evicted her up till now, even after you've received death threats, what sort of magic do you think will need to take place for him to do so now. I can't imagine how moving could be more of a pain in the ass than dealing with your crazy neighbour.
posted by chunking express at 8:36 AM on June 18, 2009


It's a horrible situation, and I'm sorry you're stuck in it. Sadly, schizophrenia is devastating, and treatment is imperfect. A true resolution would be to enforce treatment, but that's pretty difficult to accomplish.

You have a neighbor who is harassing you. You have legal recourse. Notify the landlord, in writing, of every instance of any sort of harassment. Document thoroughly, as you have been doing. Consider a Temporary Restraining Order, which will not generally alter a mentally ill person's behavior. However, if the order is violated, you have legal recourse. If the mentally ill person is arrested, she may have meds enforced in jail, or be hospitalized. This could be the best thing that could happen to her.

I had a mentally ill relative whose behavior caused him to be confined to a group home for the mentally ill, where he had to take his meds and live in a very structured environment. He was happier than he'd ever been, and not a danger to himself or others. Every state varies by quite a bit, but calling in law enforcement may actually be a kindness.
posted by theora55 at 10:23 AM on June 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


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