Being a neighbour is not necessarily straightforward: managing the relationships can be tricky and stressful. Those of us who have positive, easy-going relationships with our neighbours have much to be thankful for, the value of which is easily overlooked.
One of the problems in engaging with any neighbour at a mutually-acceptable level on the spectrum between provocatively negative and intrusive, is to assess the other’s communication impulse and readiness. Somehow you have to find out where they are on the scale between ‘gab about everything endlessly’ to stubborn dull silence about most aspects of life as it passes by; and they have to do the same for you.
At any point on this range, but especially at the extremes, your neighbour could be someone with mental health problems. And as Clare Allan suggests in a Guardian article today that I encourage you to read,
‘in the age of the "big society", professional support is being cut dramatically. Situations such as this are going to become ever more common.’
So are we ready for it, as a moderately-sized society? How good are we at connecting at the right level – not too close, not too easily drawn-in, but close enough to react fast in case of real need - with neighbours whose mental health is not what it might be? It’s hard to think of anything more important to get right, at local level; but I fear there will be many tales of avoidance, misapprehension, ignorance and recoil.