Disruptive Behaviour

Our appetites and inclinations are strongly influenced by the condition of our physical makeup, and our bodies are in varying degrees of health, depending upon factors such as heredity, environment, nourishment and our own treatment of them. Genetic variations occur, producing conditions which can create problems for the individual. Some conditions are of an emotional or psychological nature, producing such imbalances as quickness to anger, recklessness, timorousness, and so forth; others involve purely physical characteristics, resulting not only in unusual capacities but also in handicaps or diseases of various kinds.

Universal House of Justice, September 11, 1995, to a National Spiritual Assembly

[Y]ou instance the difficulties of local communities which are faced with the task of reorienting and integrating into the Cause new believers who enter with all sorts of immoral and even criminal tendencies from their former life. This is indeed difficult, but this is the very stuff of the work of the Cause. The Bahá’í Faith not only provides teachings in accordance with which the behavior of human beings can be reformed, but also makes available a spiritual power which reinforces the devoted efforts of every believer, whether veteran or neophyte. Arising to serve the Cause has, itself, a transforming effect upon believers, as the beloved Guardian wrote with respect to service upon Spiritual Assemblies: "If we but turn our gaze to the high qualifications of the members of Bahá’í Assemblies, as enumerated in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's Tablets, we are filled with feelings of unworthiness and dismay, and would feel truly disheartened but for the comforting thought that if we arise to play nobly our part every deficiency in our lives will be more than compensated by the all-conquering spirit of His grace and power." Thus, what is most imperative for the promotion of the spiritual life of local Bahá’í communities is the stimulation of the believers to increase their devotion to Bahá’u’lláh, their absolute reliance upon Him and upon His love, and their determination to apply His teachings in every aspect of their lives. This stimulation can be conveyed from heart to heart and mind to mind by devoted Bahá’ís without the need of formal training.

Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986, p. 349

Assemblies should also recognize that it may be challenging for members of the institutions to maintain a proper perspective in dealing with the behaviors of individuals with mental disorders. Members of Spiritual Assemblies are not exempt from the influences and dysfunction of present day society and are, for the most part, inexperienced in dealing with matters of mental disorders. Therefore, certain behaviors of some believers may provoke inappropriate responses from members of the Assembly. Great vigilance is required on the part of the institution itself to monitor its own responses when providing guidance to believers.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23

In some cases, disruptive behavior may be due to the effects of illness or disease. The person’s behavior may become extremely unpredictable, over-emotional, even aggressive, regardless of his or her normal personality.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23

In some cases, problems in behavior may be due to an adverse reaction to prescription medication, drug interaction with other substances, or environmental exposure to harmful substances that produce biochemical imbalances in the body. Other medical conditions, for example certain allergies and food intolerances, may also result in mood or behavior problems, some of which may be mistaken for mental disorder, substance abuse, or deliberate abuse of others, especially if the condition is undiagnosed and occurs repeatedly.

It is often appropriate to suggest that someone with a behavior problem be thoroughly evaluated by a competent physician.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23

It is important that Local Assemblies observe confidentiality in disclosing any information, particularly in the field of mental illness or family conflicts, beyond what is needed as stated above. This includes not only the substance or fact of consultation with or about the person but also any document in which references are made to diagnosis or treatment. All such records should be protected, preferably separately from the Assembly’s general minutes. Moreover, in discussing the mental state or behavioral disorder of an individual, friends should avoid careless use of labels such as diagnosis (whether perceived or reported from a professional). This will avoid spread of rumor outside of the Assembly which may have legal consequences or would stigmatize such individuals in the community.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23

The institutions as well as individual believers will have to learn to accommodate and to assist those persons who, may or may not be mentally ill by medical definition but, nonetheless, have negative, unpleasant or disruptive personalities. When a believer has emotional or psychological problems which render him incapable of behaving responsibly, the Local Assembly must, to safeguard the welfare of the community, consider what it can do to minimize the negative aspects of the person’s influence and protect the community from disruption and divisiveness. On the other hand, it must endeavor to help such persons face their challenges in life, which may be considerable, and develop their God-given spiritual potential.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 24

The Local Assembly should encourage a person with mental health or behavioral problems to seek the assistance of competent professionals. If the Assembly suspects that someone may be in danger because of the psychological problems of a believer, it can appoint a representative to contact a mental health crisis unit, adult or child protective agency, and/or the police about its concerns. Conveying confidential information to duly authorized personnel when safety issues are a concern should not be considered a violation of confidentiality.

USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23