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Group Home Answer Stereotypes Mentally Ill

July 10, 1994

In the June 26 "Real Estate Q&A," Robert J. Bruss discussed the lack of disclosure of a residential group home for the mentally ill ("Must Residential Group Home Be Disclosed?") and more or less agreed with the writer that they had reason for concern for the safety of their daughters.

It is obvious that Bruss is uninformed about the mentally ill and, in his ignorance, has underscored one of the most damaging stigmas the mentally ill have endured--that they are dangerous and/or violent.

In truth, the mentally ill are more likely to be the victims of violence, not the perpetrators. The episodes of violence in the mentally ill population is less than 1%, much less than the "normal" population.

The majority of people who suffer from mental illness strive very hard to control their symptoms so they may lead more "normal" lives. When they are successful, they can hold down jobs, go to school and try to achieve independence. One of the benefits of achieving this success is to live in a regular neighborhood and be treated like the decent human beings they are.

Mental illness is a disease, like cancer or diabetes. The disease exaggerates and distorts the personality but does not change peaceful people into violent ones. These people are not monsters that society needs to be protected from. They are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and sometimes parents.

I am a realtor, the mother of three daughters, the eldest being mentally ill and who, for the first time, is living in a decent neighborhood with several other adults experiencing the long road back from severe mental illness. It is a personal success story for her and I would like to see more people have the chance to achieve it, also.

PAM KENNEDY

La Habra

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Bruss' statement that "I don't blame you for being concerned with the safety of your daughters" is the perfect example of stereotyping the mentally ill into a category of dangerous.

At no point did the letter-writer say that the residents of the group home were a safety hazard. All the writer mentioned was that the residents talk to the writer's daughters and their friends, if they are outside, and that they would not have bought the house if they had known "mentally ill" residents lived nearby.

Just because an individual is handicapped, that does not mean he or she is dangerous. Bruss encouraged the public to believe that the mentally ill are dangerous individuals and that neighborhoods where residential homes exist could be problematic.

The only statement he should have made would be to contact the local authorities if the residents of the group home were creating problems.

SANDY WALLACE

Los Angeles

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