My neighbour has obvious mental health issues, is there anything I can do to help rather than calling the police?
I see this question a lot, so I’m glad you’ve asked it. You say your neighbour’s mental health problems are obvious, but I’m not sure what this means. I assume by your mention of the police that their behaviour is worrying or antisocial. Rachel Boyd, information manager at Mind, warns against making assumptions: “We should be conscious about equating dangerous behaviours with mental health problems. One in four people have mental health problems, which don’t necessarily manifest themselves in concerning ways.”
You want to be supportive without being meddlesome, which is refreshing and responsible. Don’t overthink it. If you are worried about your neighbour or others, you should call the police, regardless of whether you suspect they are having problems with their mental health.
The rest depends on your relationship. If you don’t know your neighbour, open up a discussion: “People worry about the right approach, but often it’s simple. Say hello and ask how they are,” says Boyd. Trying not to make assumptions is important and you should also respect their privacy. If someone’s had a police visit, they may feel embarrassed and visible. That’s why having a regular “how are you?” interaction can be helpful.
You should consider space carefully. “If it’s a housemate, approach gently. Have the conversation in a shared space when things are friendly and there aren’t others around,” says Boyd. But above all, even if you know them well, “Be factual. Stick to what you know, rather than what you think – saying things like, ‘I’ve noticed you don’t come out much any more’, rather than, ‘What’s wrong?’”
It’s great you are thinking about how to support your neighbour, be that through just a small interaction or something more solid. They may not want support; don’t use that against them. Boyd says: “Let them know that the offer is on the table, and will continue to be, regardless of whether or not they want to take it right now.”
• What do you think? Or have you got a question for Poppy and readers to consider? Post your responses below or email them to email@example.com