Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Brother on the Run


My brother was diagnosed schizoaffective. He left his halfway home and has been alone, traveling the country for 5 months. He just started calling me from a pay phone.

He is delusional. He thinks his food was poisoned a few weeks ago, and even though he’s pretty young (25ish) he thinks he’s gonna die of a heart attack. He is only contacting me and doesn’t want anyone else in the family to know where he is or that he’s calling me. I told him something today on the phone and he told me ‘They told me that’, they being the voices he hears. Our mom is schizophrenic so I’m familiar with some of the symptoms.

How do I help him? I ask him if he wants to come home. He says no. I ask him if he wants me to send him a phone card, he says no. He says he is sleeping in the lobby of a McDonald’s. I am sad and stressed.


When I was discharged from the psych ward and the military, I spent a period of about 9 months in a state of homelessness in Sacramento, CA, across the country from my family. I thought the government had experimented on me and they were after me to hide that fact, i.e. they were going to kill me. I felt I needed to do this because I was protecting my family. After a while, I began calling my mother from a pay phone. And I don’t remember just how it happened but I came home. This was 19 years ago.

Your brother calling you is a positive sign. Your best bet is not to be aggressive, you might scare him. The important thing is to get your brother home safely. I would just give him an open ended offer of a bus ticket home. Be sure whenever you talk to him to remind him how good home is and use examples, such as grandma’s cookies or something like that. The last thing you want to do is scare him off. Feel free to PM me anytime you want.


Welcome to the forum @jmweisberg

I don’t have much advise just wanted to say welcome. He has managed to take care of himself for 5 months which is a good sign and he is calling you as @riddled says, that is a good sign also.


I agree with Barbiebf, its a good sign that he is calling you. There is nothing you can do right now. Just be willing and able when he does say yes he needs help or wants you to come get him.


@jmweisberg , You brother trusts you and wants to talk to you. Like everyone else said it is a good sign. He might get tired of sleeping in McDonald’s and might come home. I am sorry that your Mom is ill too. You are doing a great job by being so supportive .Good luck and keep us posted.


maybe you could go and meet him and say hello, it is a good sign that he phoned you, he must have kept your phone number or something :slight_smile: what if you offered him to stay with you for a while just until he can get on his feet or something maybe its not too late.


I am a schizophrenic who ran away briefly when I was 26. I had some experiences that were valuable to me.

Currently I have a young friend who confides in me all her behaviors. She doesn’t want me to tell anyone what she tells me. Well, on the one hand, I believe having a confessor is a good thing, but on the other hand, I feel like I disapprove of some of the things she is doing, and she will not hear my thoughts, and so I have to talk to someone about it.



Thank you for all of your responses and support.

My brother is completely across the country from me, so it will not be easy to see him. When the time comes he does not have an I.D. to take a flight back, but I think he can come on the bus without an I.D.


Has he asked you for anything, or told you why he is calling? He may be coming through his fog a little and probably trusts you the most. If you cannot get him home right away, maybe direct him to some shelters in the area he`s in. Sometimes, from there, he can get a case manager to help him. Hang tough and GD bless…


He says he’s afraid to stay in shelters. He was at a halfway home before and a shelter before that, and one of his friends who was staying there died. He is afraid he will be harassed or hurt if he stays in one. I think he is calling just to ‘keep in contact’. That’s what he keeps saying. But he’s also afraid he’s been poisoned.

He keeps going to the local hospitals because he thinks that he’s poisoned and that he’s gonna have a heart attack. He tells me about this each time he calls.


when i was psychotic messages would only get through when appealing to the paranoia and voices. its all tonal and lets face it voices are our own conciousness. talking to him like stern father or kid isnt going to necessarily make him feel belittled if hes responding to voices hes likely submitting to them maybe talking to him in an evil suspicious tone will help sounds crazy but its the only way my dad ever got through to me was when he lowered his voice in a creepy way. then again you dont want to scare him away. plan a way to make coming home apart of his voices objective


@jmweisberg I understand this is hard. Any family member of one with mental illness, even those WITH the mental illness… they have a difficult time with everything about the illness. I know it is hard. But maybe he needs to be committed, if you are that worried about him. I hate to say this, but it may need to happen.


I am wondering why the hospitals won`t have him committed after talking with him. I understand about some of those shelters though-some of them can be pretty rough.
Can you find out which hospitals he has been going to?
Maybe call the police there and have them escort him to a hospital there? You could call ahead of time and tell them the situation. They would probably recognize your brother.
They may keep him 2 or 3 weeks and in the meantime, plans could be made to get him home.
I know you said your mother also deals with this. Hope you have some support…


My brother doesn’t want to tell me which city he’s in. I have a fair idea about where he’s at though, because there’s a phone stamp on my cell phone that displays the area code and phone number he’s calling from. When I try to call back if I’ve missed his call it gives me a sound like a fax machine, but I’m fairly certain he’s mostly calling me from a pay phone.

He has been committed before, but only for 3 or so days. That only fueled his distrust for doctors and medication. Shortly after that he ran away from home.

My mom lives at a halfway home, my dad is in a rehabilitation facility and has lost many of his faculties to communicate or relate to people. So my immediate family is not much help. My extended family believes it is my duty to care for my brother. I am poor, my boyfriend and I live in a small 1-bedroom apartment and don’t have a car, so this is sort of unrealistic.

However now that my brother’s been on the road so long I do sincerely want to help him. I just don’t know how, except for emotionally supporting him, looking up numbers for further help, etc. I do have friends and try to keep them informed of my life but few can relate or offer meaningful advice.


When he goes in saying that he’s been poisoned he’s not a harm to himself or others. So there is no reason to commit him.


I`m very sorry you are dealing with this alone-but I am glad you have a partner. Hope is of some solace for you.
have you tried the NAMI support group? There may be one in your area. maybe even call social services in you area-they may be able to give some advice on how to proceed.
Even adult protection services can come in to play.