Magnets attract things. But it seems like mental illness has the opposite effect.
I've even experienced the distancing effect when in the past people have asked me what my job was and I've said that I was running a secured psychiatric facility. My next door neighbor who works as a quality assurance nurse for an insurance company, demonstrated a total lack of interest for my vocation when we first met and I was employed in mental health. But one day when she was over at my house for a neighborhood BBQ, and something came up and it came out that my actual license was as a Nursing Home Administrator (the long term care psychiatric facilities in California are licensed as skilled nursing facilities), it was as if I went up ten notches in her estimation. She even asked if she could ever have me consult on situations relating to geriatric care and regulations and standards, should the need arise. Currently, I'm unemployed; just a couple of days ago I told a friend that I've decided to venture out into the geriatric field. When I told my friend this, right away she gave me lots of positive input. She finished her praise and encouragement of this idea by saying that she always thought my work was just so filled with difficult people and hard situations!
In California the homeless population is large in urban areas and typically is comprised of three main groups: Mentally ill individuals, chemically dependent individuals, and normal people who have just had serious bad luck and are in a bad situation. I never cease to be amazed when I observe how people act as if the homeless folks they walk by do not even exist. A favorite author of mine, Brennan Manning, is an alcoholic. In his book "The Ragamuffin Gospel", Manning tells about a time when he was actively drinking and living on the street like a bum. He tells about one day when a little girl came up to him and seemed interested in him. When her mother saw that the girl was talking to him, she came over and pulled the child away whilst viciously kicking him; the result of which was broken ribs for Manning.
What about you, what have been your experiences with mentally ill people? Have you been drawn to, or repelled by, them?