Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Missing Son and Guilt

Our son grew up with autism, but overcame many of the obstacles to successfully graduate high school with straight-A’s and become a star runner on the cross country team. He went to college for one year and then decided to go into the Air Force. He was stationed in Japan, where he likely began hearing voices, and then threatened suicide. This was 5 years ago, and he abruptly cut off almost all contact with us. He was ultimately discharged a couple years later, landed in Colorado (we live on the East coast), and he began communicating with us and his grandparents again. He seemed to be building a life, until he was arrested for breaking and entering - and then again for robbery. We did not learn anything about his mental state until about a year ago when he was released from prison on parole. Looking back, there were hints of paranoia during our chats - we just didn’t see it.

During parole, his mental health caseworker kept in close contact with us to discuss strategies, and was able to secure numerous options/assistance that would help him. Our son refused everything, including medication. When he called his grandparents, threatening to kill them, I called the Colorado police and he returned to prison.

About six months later, he was released again on parole. A new mental health caseworker kept in constant contact with us, and she really went above and beyond to transition him to shared living situations while receiving help. He refused, and constant calls to us and his grandparents (20+ per night) were filled with extreme and vile sexual threats, detailed murder scenarios, false accusations, obvious terror of us because we are “working with the government and watching him via planes in the sky,” etc. He ultimately went back to prison for a parole violation. Our son was released in September, and we have heard nothing since.

We really worry about his safety, as he’d normally call us with threats by now. Technically, he’s not missing, as he’s 25 and can pretty much do whatever he likes. Do we, or can we, file a missing person’s report? Would we ever be notified should anything happen to him? I don’t even know what state he’s in now.

Also, we feel a tremendous amount of guilt, and that’s eating away at us. It sounds awful, but if he was “found”, there’s no way we could have him live with us. We can’t live in fear and locked doors, and we also have an 11-year old daughter to consider.

So, what do we do now?

Do you have a big dog? I am serious. Threats should always be taken seriously. You don’t have to live in fear, but you should be cautious.

Do you want to be notified if something has happened to him?

Please don’t let your guilt make you do something you don’t want to do, many families can’t live with their mentally ill family members.

Hello, I’m sorry you are going through this.

If you do choose to try to find him, here are some steps:

I’m not sure what would be best for you, your family, or your son. Just wanted you to have a resource if you choose to search.

I hope your guilt is softened by the fact that over the past 50 years, mental illness has been criminalized in the United States; it is illegal to treat people involuntarily until they commit dangerous acts or threaten to commit dangerous acts. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people with severe mental illness are imprisoned instead of treated. It’s not your fault; many laws have been passed over the decades to create this situation. Then all the trauma from being incarcerated builds up and worsens the illness.

Of course you cannot live with a person who has his behaviors, no matter why he has them.

I’m so sorry you are going through that and feeling guilt. I hope that you can let the guilt go because it can really change you and taint your other relationships. This illness happened to us, it is not something we asked for. If you are worried something has happened to him maybe see if you could file a report. When released from prison was he on parole? Could you locate his parole officer? Maybe start with the state he was incarcerated in if you know which one?