The difficulty of getting advice from the SD

There is a thread in IMHO called 'keeping a girlfriend when asked tough questions’, where a poster with admitted mental problems asks for relationship advice.

This is one of the threads that worries me. We’re corresponding with someone who, by his own admission, has mental problems. He’s getting the usual, full, Straight Dope onslaught: some sincere, caring responses, some caustic, some piss-taking, some jocular, some disbelieving. We can’t tell what sort of effect this would have on someone without disabilities let alone how all this will be interpreted by someone with them. It’s already been shown that some advice has been taken a little too literally, with not altogether positive consequences.

I appreciate that he has asked, and continues to ask for our advice, but what might seem for some posters to be good laugh or a quick, perhaps seemingly deserved jibe might have very negative consequences for the recipient. We just don’t know how our words will be taken. It’s dangerous ground.

I chalk it up to the trend of people consulting sites like webmd instead of visiting their doctor (of course, this may be because doctor’s visits are expensive (are they? I’m Canadian, so I don’t know)) or asking legal advice on the net (the phrase IANAL is, after all, a well-known web acronym) (probably because legal advice from an actual lawyer is expensive).

Yes, it worries me too. There should be a disclaimer somewhere to consult with a professional; we’re just a bunch of … (gee, what is our commonality anyways? Just that we’re all fans of Cecil’s column?)

It’s more the reduced sensitivities of some the respondents that worries me. It is, I think, unavoidable in such a mixed comunity, but the consequences could be very damaging. Some people are suckered in by the seemingly innocuous tone to most of the threads, and are unaware of how heated things can become.

I’m on the fence on this one; on the one hand, if you live your life by advice you get on the internet, you might need to re-think that philosophy. On the other hand, if this guy doesn’t have the same capacity for discernment as your average adult, I don’t know what level of responsibility we have for what we tell him. I am completely sure that there are any number of people here who have no problem saying that he shouldn’t post if he can’t handle what he gets told here, but I think we have a responsibility too, to not make bad situations worse on purpose.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, though - I think everyone should take relationship advice here with a grain of salt. Based on the number of multiple marriages and completely messed-up love lives I have read about here, Dopers are not your best source for relationship advice.

Okay, I’ll play Devil’s advocate here. The guy was asking for it.

Here is how I read it: My fat (she has a belly), average (she’s a 5) girlfriend might not like it because I want to go on a reality show where geeks can meet hotties. I don’t want to dump her…yet…but I want to know how to get around the tough questions because I will dump her fat, average ass if I can score a hottie.

And no, I’m not a bitter, fat chick…it read that way to everyone. I don’t care how he backpedaled, or is blaming us for dumping his girlfriend…she’s still much better off with someone who appreciates her, who is employed, and who isn’t mentally ill. So we did a disservice to a SDMB member, but it was done for the greater good.

You don’t walk on air because you belong to the SDMB…if anything, you should be held to a higher standard because you’re a member of the SDMB. He’s wrong, morally and ethically, and he deserves the derision he received.

I can speak with a bit of authority on this issue because I have diagnosed clinical depression mixed with anxiety, and I started a thread in the BBQ Pit that got several people’s dander up. If you search for posts started by me, I’m sure you’ll find it; no reason to bring it up here. But I don’t (and didn’t even at the time) expect the SDMB community to walk on eggshells when they post responses to my BS. In fact, in the situation I just mentioned, I was better served by posters telling me what a jackass I was being about the whole affair; it snapped me out of my self pity and helped me reevaluate my priorities. Sure, I think some of the comments were harsh and scornful, but most were just brutally honest.

I’ve been around these boards long enough to see that when a Doper is in true need of sympathy and advice, he or she will get it. But the board doesn’t suffer fools or those being jerks for the sake of being jerks gladly.

In other words, because somebody has a mental disorder and doesn’t think the way you do, it’s okay for you to say things that will harm him. You get to decide that a person with that disorder must inherently be a bad person. You get to decide what is best for the entire frickin’ world.

You aren’t being a devil’s advocate. Your POST is advocating bigotry.

Just because someone has a mental health diagnosis, that person isn’t necessarily automatically akin to a child, or someone that we need to “protect”. It’s that kind of attitude IMO that keeps mentally ill people from progressing. To me, this is where people think they can decide what’s best for others. Just like everyone else, people with mental health issues are in charge of their own lives, make choices, and can generally deal with the consequences.

I take issue with people thinking you have to “walk on eggshells” or be extra careful with your words, just because someone admitted to a mental health dx. Most folks with mental health problems don’t talk about them, possibly exactly because of the way many people’s attitudes toward them change once the admission is made. There are more people with mental health issues than you think there are.

***If I’ve misinterpreted, and people actually think that this poster has limited mental capacity, or some severe type of communicative disorder like autism, then yes I believe those types of folks probably need some measure of protection. Disclaimer: I did not read the entire previous thread by that poster.

Bullshit. A mental disorder isn’t a free pass to be an asshole and have people to tell you it’s okay. And what the hell was said in that thread that would “harm” him? If he’s that fragile, it’s his responsibility to not ask questions he doesn’t want the answers to. This is a message board, not a support group. It is NOT a “safe place”, nor should it be.

I’ve got mental health problems and I’ve never expected anyone on the Dope to walk on eggshells around me. I know that whatever I post, I’m likely to get the whole gamut of responses and I need to be prepared for that. Like Diana said, we’re not a support group and not everyone is even tolerable of these sorts of problems, let alone thinking they even exist.

The best thing to do is grow a thicker skin or not put your personal information out there where it can be vulnerable. Otherwise, you takes what you gets and hope for the best.

Bigotry is when you act against a person for unjust reasons.

Yeah, this is a lesson I learned the hard way. The Straight Dope is awful about stigmatizing the mentally ill. The last thing people need when they are down is another kick, and ‘‘don’t go looking for support on the Straight Dope’’ is neither a particularly enlightened response nor a realistic expectation. There are many people who have no other place to go and post here out of desperation. You would think a group of people who pride themselves on fighting ignorance would fight their own sometimes.

If the way this person thinks is that it is okay to put down and insult his so-called girlfriend, treat her like an object and chuck her for a newer model as soon as is practical, then, their way of thinking is wrong and requires correction. It has nothing to do with mental illness and everything to do with treating others with basic respect.

If this person is unable by virtue of mental illness to refrain from insulting others and treating them like objects, he should be advised not be in a relationship right now.

No one should be encouraged on this board or anywhere to verbally and emotionally abuse.

I disagree. I see a lot of support for people with problems if they ask for support.

If people ask for advice, however, that’s a difference from asking for support, and any adult should know and accept that advice may sometimes turn out the opposite of what he wanted/ expected. Thus the old proverb of an honest enemy being better than a dishonest friend: if somebody tells you honestly your faults, you can correct them. If people - and several dopers at that - give you an advice that is unpleasant, then you should stop and consider that advice, instead of putting fingers into your ears and ignoring it because it sounds so harsh.

There was another thread some time ago where somebody asked for advice, and several dopes said that he had obviously serious problems from his descriptions, and that he should see a professional expert for help.

Now, we dopers can’t make another person go a therapist, anymore than we can force a relative or friend with problems when we know his behaviour is destructive. We can try and not touch hot button topics if we know they set that person off, and we can tone down the aggressivenss if we know somebody has problems. But we owe the truth as chance for that person to change.

Aaaand…still on the fence. I agree with both sides here.

That is pretty good advice. If you have severe problems or inadequacies, its best to talk them over either privately with people you have screened on here or to post them on a board more devoted to those subjects who would be more supportive and understanding (boards on mental health, etc). If not, you should be willing to deal with the gamut of responses.

The problem is when you have people whose mental disorders or problems make it hard for them to even understand that rule (either talk privately or on a board with people who are more supportive).

The way I saw it was that he seemed to be unaware of how what he posted sounded to us, and how what he said, and how he treats his (ex) ‘partner’ would come across to her. I also think, from how he responded to us in that thread, that he isn’t affected emotionally by our comments. Everything seems to him to be factual and logical. He hasn’t given any indication that feelings are relevant to him.

I’m no expert in mental health, but isn’t that typical of some mental disorders?


I really don’t understand the point of the OP. It is not difficult to get advice from the SDMB. You put out your thread and you get lots of it.

There may be some difficulty in figuring out which advice is worth taking. I have seen members, without any attempt at snark, suggest some pretty stupid solutions to problems. And other advice, couched in ridicule, that nevertheless is pretty dead on, IMO. And everything in between.

So really it seems to me the OP’s point isn’t about the difficulty of getting advice but in giving it in some manner appropriately sensitive to the advice OP’s individual circumstances. So this is really an issue of tone more than anything else.

What you’re doing is asking assholes not to be such assholes. Tough sell. Good luck with that.

Another issues is that many times the OP is a straightforward request for advice or information and the apparent problems of the OP don’t become apparent until after a number of exchanges with others. Indeed, it is sometimes the snarkiest comments which draw out some kind of bizarre response and give us a clue that the OP has more issues than were put on the table at first.

Well, I appreciate your concern, but I don’t see any other way of doing business to avoid such potential problems.

He said he has schizoaffective (I believe) and his girlfriend had schizophrenia.