I just spent 20 minutes writing a post only to have the app on my phone crash and lose it all so I'll have to try again.
Does anyone reading this have experience dealing with the mentally ill?
I'm not talking about me. This time.
Here's the big picture, not too many details because I don't want to disrespect the relevant person's privacy.
A neighbour of mine approached me a few days ago when I was heading out for a walk and asked if he could talk to me for a minute. (I'd only met him once before.)
He told me he has mental health issues and was really scared after lying awake all night worrying that everyone famous or powerful is turning to the dark side. Also that Satan wanted to harm his dog, who he clearly clings to as a lifeline since he lives alone.
I have no experience of such issues so I just tried to be positive (and you know that doesn't come easily to me) in a sympathetically noncommittal kind of way.
Today he came to the front door and asked if he and his dog could come in to talk to me more about it.
I didn't let him in, I did go out and chat with him outside. He was basically in the same place - we're all going to hell, and what will happen to the animals? After about 5 minutes M came out to see where I'd gone, and he just said hello, greeted the dog, stood there looking friendly but big and strong for a few minutes, then pulled the front door almost closed while staying in the porch to keep his ears open as I'd told him about the earlier conversation.
Again I did try to just be friendly but non advising (apart from saying that maybe it would help if he were to join a group so he had someone to talk to) keeping not too emotional, and basically being nervous that I might say the wrong thing. Either in terms of making him worse, or in terms of making him believe I'm some kind of solution to his problems.
So. How do I deal if this proves not to be a one off?
My mother in law thinks I should essentially tell him to find professional help then shut the door in his face if he comes to the door again. M thinks I should be a bit more polite and friendly, but always be too busy to talk in the hope that he will realize I can't be relied on - that approach is a better fit to my inclinations.
I don't think for a minute he's dangerous, although I know I might not pick up on signs other more experienced people would. What I feel is that he's a gentle, harmless, lonely and frightened person. He's well enough to live alone - if that means anything in these days of care in the community. He's doesn't look malnourished and his dog looks healthy, happy, well adjusted and friendly with no signs of nervousness.
But the idea of my trying to help someone who is ill see the good in life is very much the blind leading the blind, and I need to keep some distance for both our sakes.
So I would really appreciate advice, suggestions, anything at all. Because if he comes to me for help on one of my bad days there's a good chance he'll be knocking on my door while I hide under the table, and that wouldn't be good for either of us.