Several clinicians have theorized that somatic and residential treatments have an untoward effect on the eventual outcome of mental illness. To test this hypothesis, the author studied social coping behavior of mentally ill people in Laos, a predominantly peasant society with no psychiatrists or psychiatric hospitals. The Lao folk term baa ('crazy' or insane) was used in determining cases. Social factors studied included legal problems, family contact, sociability, friendship, communal activities, sexuality, and work. Results indicated that levels of social function in this sample were quite limited. The author concludes that social disability associated with chronic psychosis cannot be ascribed totally to diagnostic labeling or institutionalization.