Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hoarding a sign of mental illness

By Josh White

Bonnie Klem has been walking into homes for more than 15 years, and the signs that something is wrong are often visible from the sidewalk: There’s an odor, or the blinds are always drawn. There are piles of rusted fenders on the lawn or several broken vacuum cleaners on the front steps. Sometimes the back-yard grass is barely visible through piles of stuffed plastic bags.
Inside, stacks of newspapers reach the ceiling. Toppled boxes, exploded cans of spaghetti sauce, office supplies and garbage block the hallways. The stairs are crumbling, and the floors sometimes give way to the weight of one person’s stuff.
These exceptionally cluttered homes fall into the category of hoarding, a problem that local, regional and national authorities consider a matter of public health and public safety. It is also now recognized as a significant mental health issue, one that experts say causes its sufferers to accumulate objects to the point that they become emotionally attached to and perhaps endangered by them.
Some local jurisdictions are setting up hoarding task forces to coordinate their responses and raise awareness of the issue. Simply hauling out the trash and encouraging the hoarder to start over with a clean house can be emotionally damaging and futile. Now, officials use resources across a broad spectrum to get hoarders the help and support they need..."  More

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