I work in a public library. Last week, a patron with obvious mental health issues set a pocket knife on the table where he was reading. He didn’t threaten anyone with it, but he did leave it out in the open where it was visible to everyone for several hours.
Some of my coworkers wanted to ask him to put the knife away.
Other coworkers said it would be harassing someone with mental illness.
What do you think?
I’ll be honest…
Some of your coworkers are basically saying, “Asking vulnerable people to follow the rules is harassment.”
I find this to be absurd.
If you would ask a person with no mental illness to put the knife away, it is ok to ask a person with mental illness to do the same.
Let me say this emphatically:
IT IS OK TO ASK EVERYONE TO FOLLOW THE RULES… EVEN PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLE WITH HOMELESSNESS, MENTAL ILLNESS, SUBSTANCE ABUSE, PTSD, ETC.
Not enforcing the rules with vulnerable individuals causes massive problems for your organization PLUS it is incredibly condescending to vulnerable individuals. It assumes they are like toddlers who are unable to understand boundaries.
Now, there are two caveats to this:
- Don’t add extra rules for vulnerable individuals. Apply all the rules to everyone.
- Always enforce the rules with respect and dignity – I call it “Rules with Respect.” The vulnerable individual will respond better (humiliated people are unpredictable) and it’s the right thing to do!
Have a great week!