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DigitalBlue's avatar

What (if anything) can I do for an internet friend that I'm concerned about?

Asked by DigitalBlue (6462 points ) September 28th, 2012

I have a friend online who has schizophrenia. Originally I was friends with his older brother (we played Xbox live together), and ultimately came to be friends with his younger brother, and even spoke with their mother a few times… so I know the family, at least a bit. However, only the middle brother and I have kept in touch.
I am really concerned about his recent behavior. He has become really difficult to understand, most of what he talks about doesn’t really make any sense. In the last several months he has become increasingly convinced that God is speaking to him, and giving him a very special message for the world, but first he has to decode (?) some kind of numerical puzzle that he is obsessing over.
He’s a really nice guy, the whole family is really wonderful, but I don’t know how to get in contact with anyone else these days. I am not even sure where his brothers live, but I know that my friend lives with his parents. Should I attempt to find his mom and perhaps express my concern, or is that likely to be unwelcome? Aside from having spoken to her a couple of times, she doesn’t really know me. I would hope that the family would recognize that he seems to be delusional, but this has been going on for months and only appears to be getting worse.
I know that in the past he has gone through phases where he refuses to take his medication, and I worry that it is the case now, but I have never seen him this detached from reality before. I’m not sure that it would do any good for me to talk directly to him, but even if I were to try that, I’m not even sure what to say.

Is there anything that I can or should do, or should I just assume/hope that the family is keeping an eye on this?

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7 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Make no assumptions. If you can contact at least one member of the family without hiring an army of PI’s, it can’t hurt.

Keep your comments short and to-the-point. What’s the worst that can happen?

Shippy's avatar

People like you are salt of the earth, really. So many people care these days. I am sure he is a wonderful despite his “illness”. I would definitely try and find the mom, just to say you send your regards and hope he is taking care, simply because he is a friend of yours.

I would imagine already you have left messages at the place where you know him? The world really needs kinder people like you, just to make it a better place. :)

josie's avatar

Your concern is touching.
But the truth is there really isn’t much you can do. Your schizophrenic friend may not even realize you are trying to be helpful.
And whatever you say to his friends and family, they already know it and they can’t do anything about it either.

wundayatta's avatar

I do think it is a good idea to alert someone who is close to him, like his mother, if you can. Someone close is in a much better position to help. If he has stopped his meds, then he may well end up in the hospital, if he ever acts out in a very antisocial way.

I think you can also talk to him, and tell him what you see. You would ask him to talk to his mother or someone he trusts (if anyone like that exists) and see what they think. You can also ask him to see his psychiatrist. Tell him you are letting him know what you see. You are not judging him. You care about him. You are worried. You’d like to have your worries dispelled, and he can do that by talking to the psychiatrist.

The important thing is to be honest. People can tell when you have a hidden agenda, so don’t try to hide your agenda.

You don’t need to argue with him about whether he hears god or not. You can ask what God is saying. You can ask him if he really thinks he has special access to god, and why. But don’t judge it. Do this to gather information. You can ask him what God wants him to do. You can ask him what he plans to do.

It isn’t really important whether or not God is talking to him or not. It isn’t all that important whether he believes it is god or not. What is important is what he plans to do.

You want to keep the conversation on things where you don’t have to disagree with him. So you can listen and be sympathetic and empathetic and be credible when you suggest that it would be a good idea to talk to someone. If people feel like they are being heard, they are more likely to listen to suggestions, especially if they think you really care about them. And it seems like you really do care, so that’s a great place to be.

However, you can’t make him do anything. So if he doesn’t like your questions or he doesn’t like your suggestions, don’t press very hard. You can repeat them, but don’t make them a point of contention. That doesn’t help. Just repeat that you are concerned and you are there for him, and you think it would be good if he talked to his mother or psychiatrist.

Of course, it would be nice if you knew if his mother is trustworthy, because she might not be the right person. It would also be nice if you knew if he trusted his psychiatrist. If he doesn’t trust these people, then it won’t do any good to urge him to talk to them. Then you have to find out if there is anyone else he does trust.

Good luck. I think it’s a good thing you are trying to help.

marinelife's avatar

I would contact them and te4ll them your concerns with his actions and what he is saying. Hopefully not, but they could be in danger.

augustlan's avatar

If you can actually find someone to tell, I would.

Fyrius's avatar

I’d want to tell his mother something that begins with “hey, you did NOT get this from me, but”.
(And I’d want to get him back on his meds.)

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