Home Teaching the Mentally Ill

Mormon Hereticabuse, Charity, christ, depression, Mormon 28 Comments

I posted a longer version of this on my blog.  Last month I had the most unusual experience I have ever had in regards to home teaching.

Our ward realigned ward boundaries a few months ago, and we got a new bishopric, as well as a new Elder’s quorum presidency.  With all the changes, I had a few months in which I was not a home teacher.  I was given my list of 3 families to visit.  Two of the three families were fairly active.  The other name on my list was just a name, I’ll call Ted.  In December, our bishopric asked all home teachers to pick up a 2 liter bottle of root beer to distribute to our families.

I visited the apartment of Ted in December.  He wasn’t home; an older woman (who I assume must have been his mother) answered the door in a walker.  My list showed Ted had not been visited in over a year.  The woman said Ted was not there right now, thanked me for the root beer, and explained that she would have invited me in, but she was sick and didn’t want me to get sick.  I asked if she preferred I stop by unannounced or set appointments, and she said it was ok to drop by in the future.  She explained that they didn’t go to church very often, and Ted often worked Sundays, but I was welcome to stop by again.  (Normally home teachers have partners, but I haven’t been assigned a partner yet.)

So, I dropped by again in January to meet Ted.  He didn’t invite me in, but we talked on the cold porch for about a half hour.  I soon realized as I talked to Ted that he was mentally ill.  He confirmed my suspicions when he told me that he heard voices, had anger issues, and suffered from depression.  I asked if he lived there with his mom, and he confirmed that he did.  He explained that he could afford to live in the apartment by himself, but her social security check made it easier to make ends meet.  He said that when the time comes for his mother to die, he might go live in a mental health facility.  He mentioned that he made a living on disability checks–he had been declared mentally disabled due to depression.

In the half hour I talked to Ted, he told a series of strange, but probably true stories about his life.  He had been married once, but left an unfaithful wife.  In response, he got drunk at a bar, and was angry enough to fire a gun.  It was unclear to me if he was firing the weapon at someone or not, but he was arrested and spent time in the LA County jail, where he was physically assaulted by inmates (I’ll spare some gruesome details.)  This is what caused his “anger issues.”  He also mentioned that he was surprised that a mentally ill person could get a gun in California, and then proceeded to fear that Pres Obama was going to take away his gun.  (If anyone needs a gun taken away, it is this man.)

While he had some pretty colorful language he was friendly enough.  He asked where and when church was, and said he would like to come.  However, when he learned that church meets at 1 pm, he didn’t like that time of day.  He has a sleeping disorder, and often is asleep at that time of day.

While we all need God in our lives, I’m not sure that church is a good place for this man to be.  The thought crossed my mind to invite him to church (before he volunteered to attend), but after hearing all these rambling statements, I did not feel I wanted to expose my family to him.  It is obvious he needs serious mental health help.

I’m not sure how to help this man as a home teacher.  I guess my inclination is to visit him monthly, and listen to him, but I have no idea how to handle the situation.  He seems quite unstable, and I feel like he has the potential to cause harm to church members–frankly I didn’t like hearing that he owned a gun and had anger issues.  He was very rambling in his conversation.  So, the question comes to mind, “What would Jesus do?”  Aside from heal him of his mental illness, I have no idea.  How would you handle the situation?

Comments 28

  1. I’d ask the bishop if he had any recommendations for psychiatrists/psychologists. I’m surprised that he’s living on disability checks, but getting no help from the state.

    I checked the CA DOJ page on handgun ownership. If his shooting/conviction/prison story is true, he is not allowed to own a handgun regardless of his mental status.

  2. Honestly, this post makes me really uncomfortable. It has too many details, and a tinge of judgment. I’m not sure why its something that needs to be posted on the internet, other than, hey, listen to my crazy story about this crazy guy in my ward. In my opinion, you should have spoken about it to your bishop in confidence. I’m not sure why you think you or your family is in any danger by being this man’s home teacher. Just drop by each month, talk to him for a few minutes, and ask his mother if she needs any help. Perhaps the Bishop could also stop by and see if the church can help him get some counseling through LDS Family services. Other than that, just be friendly and compassionate to the man.

  3. I don’t think this is an improper post. It raises an interesting question about the mentally ill and the church. I lived for many years in a ward that had an facility for mentally ill men within the boundaries, a couple of whom were on our roles and were permanent residents. Long time members of the ward had long since stopped making serious efforts to bring them to church, mostly because these men were pretty obviously unaccountable, didn’t seem to get anything out of it and were occassionally quite disruptive. From time to time new missionaries or ward missionaries would renew efforts to bring them to church, which no one objected to of course, but it would only be a matter of time before they learned the same lesson. From a practical stand point, having these men at church made little sense. Again, who benefited? And yet, perhaps we were not patient enough. If the church of the Master himself does not welcome these, then where are they welcome? Yes, they were much like children, but Master said “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for such is the kingdom of heave.” I have a feeling that if He lived in that ward, he would have gone to them and ministered to them.

  4. I am not sure why Anon is uncomfortable with the post. I think perhaps because of your lack of understanding the mentally and the problems and prejudice they not only in the general public , but in LDS culture as well.

    A few years ago I suffered a major depressive episode the result of a thyroid disorder and combating two major unrelated medical issues while trying to work. As a result I lost my job and eventually my place where I was living.

    The most severe of the mentally ill have more often than not been abused and as a result are more afraid of people than the other way around.When I first moved into my current branch two years ago, I made no attempt to hide what I been thru , not to gain sympathy but rather to educate members of the branch who were seeking to help family members etc. I also had list of social service agencies to help those who needed them told them how to navigate the system.

    I had one sister tell me that I was full of the devil and that I was never hungry and should have eaten out of a garbage can if was. My home teacher told me that I had severe mental and emotional problems which needed to be addressed both spiritually and emotionally. These statements are the kinds of hurtful things ward members say because they are uncomfortable and dont really want to know how to help.

    The best thing I can tell you is to be his friend. I mean be a real friend by being a good listener. Makes sure he gets out once in a while to give him confidence around people and to let him know that not everyone is going to hurt him. Do this because your not only helping him, but your also giving his mom some respite from his care. Contact the local social service agency in your area and try to see if he can have a case worker assigned to him. His mom because of her age and physical status may not have the stamina to follow thru with the steps necessary to help him attain these service. She/He can help get him qualified for adult day care programs in his area which can help make sure he maintains his meds.
    Most of all Do not shun him. We don’t shun the children of members who have physical disabilities like cerebral palsy or autism and these children can often be just as disruptive in church. Why would you or anyone else treat this any different

    I recognize these are beyond the scope of what a home teacher is suppose to do but at the very least you will develop more compassion for people in the predicament listed above

  5. E.D., I’m not sure if you’re referring to financial help, or mental help. Perhaps he is getting both or neither–I don’t know. As for gun laws, it seems a gun is available for anybody who wants one, regardless of the law. When he said that, I couldn’t tell if he was trying to scare me away as a home teacher, or he was telling the truth. I didn’t talk to the bishop directly–I went thru the EQ pres, but the EQ pres said the bishop would like me to continue to stop by. He didn’t know of any psychologists, and frankly I don’t think LDS Social Services is equipped to handle a mentally ill person of this magnitude.

    Anon, I’m sorry you’re uncomfortable with the post. I think most people are happy to discuss prayer, faith, etc, but your reaction to sweep this under the rug isn’t at all helpful for helping me deal with the situation. I’m trying to make an effort here–perhaps I should quit going like the previous home teacher did because it is too uncomfortable to deal with?

    Harold and Dblock, thanks for your comments. I’m trying not to shun him, but I am way out of my comfort zone here. I think mental illness is the modern-day equivalent to leprosy. We don’t know how to deal with the mentally ill, and would rather they all lived on an island out of sight and out of mind. The funny thing is mental illness is not contagious, but for those who don’t have it, we act like it is. Frankly, I would love to get to the point where we (as society) treat mental illness just like any physical ailment. Even still, it is dramatically different, and I don’t know that we will ever get to that point, but certainly there is some progress to be made.

  6. MH

    I can certainly appreciate your being uncomfortable with the situation. I applaud your efforts in trying to decide how to best help this brother.

    I am with you in respect that I do not think LDS services would be the best place to find him help. Might I suggest calling the local hospital where you live and contact the social services department in the hospital. They may be able to best point you in the right direction of finding out what kind of services he may be eligible for and assign him a case worker for case management purposes.

  7. I would suggest visiting him monthly and listening to him and letting him know God loves him by your actions. If you feel there is some real possibility of physical danger, I would suggest requesting your EQ president to get you a partner soon or just recruit a friend from the ward to always come with you.

  8. Unfortunately, we live in a country where it is hard to prevent the mentally ill from owning firearms. There probably isn’t much you can do for him if he doesn’t want help and has no close relatives to help get it for him. If you knew him well, then you might be able to help, but just being his home teacher, probably you aren’t going to get to know him that well. Try to be friendly and not try to push him into doing anything.

    I had a situation where MY home teacher started hearing voices and thought the CIA was after him. I knew his brother had bipolar disorder. Other people had noticed a change in him as well. The bishop, the elder’s president, and I talked to him at church and told him we would like to take him to the ER at the university psychiatric hospital. He didn’t want to go, but we kind of tricked him by saying if he didn’t go with us, then we might have to alert the authorities, so he went. After being examined, he agreed to sign himself in and a week later, on medication, thanked us for helping him, since he was now able to recognize that he had become psychotic, and lost his delusions after starting medication. I felt guilty about tricking him but am not sure what would have happened to him if we hadn’t. I don’t think that would have worked if he hadn’t trusted us somewhat, although he was pretty paranoid at the time, so don’t try it with this fellow.

  9. The last question you raise at the end of your post is a good one “how can i help this guy”. The fact of the matter is other than being a friendly face you really can’t. I would advise you against trying to act as anything more than an occasional listener as you probably don’t have training in mood disorders and could end up causing more problems then good. In fact you’ll probably do more good trying to help the mother with her needs.

    I say this for two reasons. First I tried to help a mildly-schizophrenic man on my mission with the standard, come to church, be a good person, average gospel stuff and the kind of fellowshipping that did wonders with mildly reclusive people sent this man over the edge into a minor psychotic episode.

    Second you cannot comprehend the problems he is facing. Mood disorders (of which depression is one) are not diseases like a skin infection, or clogged cardiac arteries where there is a clear pathology that can be fixed by removing the damaged tissue. The pathology in this case is that your friends view of reality is altered. What you perceive to be real and what he perceives are entirely different things. Any attempt to by you to logically help him through his problems will ultimately not help.

    I really hope I’m not coming off too heavy handed but people like this need our love and they need the help of those who have been trained to help them.

    Granted I’ll be the first to admit that we have yet to figure out how to effectively help these people and the current treatments do a terrible job; however, much damage can be done by a good intentioned individual who thinks they are going to

  10. When I spent some time in a rehabilitative institution (multiple disorders, including severe clinical depression), I appreciated the people, who decided to ignore the social stigma and come visit. After a gradual recovery (has taken years and is ongoing), I found that I have learned much from my journey to the “dark side” of the society. One of the things I’ve learned is, that most fears concerning the mentally ill are unfounded.

    This person you talked about says he has anger issues; I don’t know but that it could be a good sign that he would, for example, not come to church if he felt he was not okay around people. Anyone, who’s been in prison and has been abused there, will not voluntarily put themselves in situations where they might end up inside. Remember that his one violent episode was when he was drunk?

    One helpful thing would be to make sure he’s not poisoning himself with illicit drugs or alcohol, because basically any disorders that he might have are much acerbated by them. Hearing voices in itself is not dangerous to anybody. I hear voices at times, and I just ignore them, because I know they’re not real (and I can differentiate between them and the answers to my prayers — which I don’t “hear” as voices anyway).

    And LDSFS would be the go-to place here. They would be able to refer him to a counselor that could help him.

  11. This issue is so frustrating to me. Because of the way our laws are currently set up in the US, it is nearly impossible to truly help the severely mentally ill, including those, like this unfortunate brother, who may pose a danger to themselves and others. The delusional and/or psychotic are often left to themselves until they actually commit a crime, at which time they are put in an environment (prison) that only worsens their illness. I’m not sure there is much you or the ward could really do for him, but I agree that in his mental state church may not be a good idea. LDSFS provides counseling services, I can’t see that helping someone who is psychotic. Ideally, he should be in a therapeutic environment (with no guns!), and you have no power to put him there.

  12. i am not sure if it is directly associated with lds social services, but there is another organization that the church uses called family solutions(i think. something like that). i recently was asked to drive a sister in our stake to a psychiatrist and he immediately admitted her to a mental health facility. her husband was away for work and she had a breakdown from the stress of being on her own. we were aware of her mental health issues and kept an eye on her, but it wasnt enough. she had a breakdown and her kids were shipped off to relatives. in this situation, there was no plan in place. her husband was well aware of her illness and left on a 3 month business trip, leaving their 4 children in her care. both sides of the family were in the area, but did nothing until she was in such crisis that we(the bishop and rs presidency) had to call them and tell them that she needed help. in matters like this, it is the familys responsibility to take care of this stuff. of course we continue to ht/vt and be compassionate, but often that is not enough for the seriously mentally ill.

  13. And note the last sentence.

    On a personal note, a brother wrestles daily with
    schizophrenia. Some other family members deal with depression.

  14. Thanks for the comments all. E, I heard of a study at the U of U which said that the US prison system is a mental health system. In prison, those with mental illness are routinely medicated. Without that structure, sometimes mentally ill people don’t get the therapy they need and commit crimes. There is also a book review from Scientific American by a British neurologist who asks if the state of mental health care has made any improvements in the last 50 years. From the book review, it doesn’t appear that diagnosis or drugs have made any advances in treating these illnesses.

    Glenn, I did a search for Elder Morrison’s article and found it here.

    I’m probably guilty of the #5 myth: 5. All mentally ill persons are dangerous and should be locked up. Sensational and incomplete media reports have conjured up stereotypical portrayals of the mentally ill as crazed and violent lunatics, dangerous to others as well as themselves. The truth is that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and the great majority of crimes of violence are not committed by persons who are mentally ill. 1

    Furthermore, over the past 40 years, as effective medications for mental illness have become available and effective support programs have been developed, it has been shown that most mentally ill people—like those with physical illnesses—can live productive lives in their communities. They do not need to be locked up. Like everyone else, most mentally ill persons receiving proper treatment have the potential to work at any level in any profession, depending solely on their abilities, talents, experience, and motivation.

    Maybe we do over-react to media stories of violently mentally ill people. We think of the weird John Hinckley (who shot Pres Reagan). Following the Trolley Square shooting, the Deseret News listed Infamous Shooting Incidents in Salt Lake County. In 3 of the 4 incidents listed, the shooter had a history of mental illness:

    Jan 14, 1999, De Kieu Duy, 24, a woman with a history of mental illness, enters the Triad Center with a handgun at about 3:30 p.m. She fires numerous rounds in the lobby of KSL’s broadcast center.

    April 15, 1999, Armed with a handgun, Sergei Babarin, 70, enters the LDS Church’s Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City and starts shooting about 10:30 a.m….Babarin’s family says he had a history of schizophrenia.

    Sept. 21, 1991, Armed with a shotgun, handgun and several sticks of dynamite, Richard Worthington, 39, blasts his way into the Women’s Health Center at Alta View Hospital shortly after midnight….Worthington pleads guilty to killing Karla Roth and is sentenced to 35 years in prison, but later his attorneys try to have his guilty plea withdrawn, saying he was mentally ill during the shooting and when he pleaded guilty. After several suicide and escape attempts, Worthington on Nov. 11, 1993, succeeds in killing himself by hanging in his prison cell at the Ely State Prison in Nevada.

    Now I understand these are isolated incidents, and certainly not representative of all mentally ill people. Nonetheless, I don’t think his conversation about anger issues or guns should be ignored. I plan to keep things light and friendly, and do the best I can. Frankly, I’m no psychiatrist, and if the state deems him competent to live on his own, then I will treat him that way.

  15. This may be more general than the thread intends, but doesn’t this raise questions about why there has been so little progress in treating mental illness over the past decades compared to the progress in treating other diseases?

    It seems like we do medical research disproportionately on the diseases of those who can produce money for the private sector and/or votes for the political machines.

    O guess I’m lucky I have the diseases I have.

  16. When my brother first displayed symptoms (being chased by “snakes” only he could see, etc), I , too, was guilty of believing the myths. In the time since, other mental illnesses have surfaced in my family. Two sons now battle depression, but cope well with treatment. Some twist in the DNA, I guess.

    Such illnesses seem to be much more common in the post war generations (WWII, that is). Perhaps it’s because fewer patients are ‘locked up’ and thus more visible. Or, it, properly, has lost its stigma and more people own up to it, and get treatment. (Tiger Woods should be grateful for Betty Ford and her clinic paving the way.)

    One thing that may contribute is the dispersion of families in today’s societies. We don’t have close living family members to rally around an ill person, and take care of him.

  17. firetag, I don’t mind turning this thread into a general discussion of mental illness. I think it could be a fruitful discussion. my family has some more mild cases os depression, and I think depression is a very tough thing to deal with. I don’t feel better equipped to deal with it due to my personal experience with family members. certainly my family pales in comparison to anything this man deals with, and i’d like to hear success stories from others.

  18. I loved this post. Brings back some interesting memories. When I was in med school, I was attending a college singles ward. We frequently had an older, unshaven, solitary man come to the meetings in the institute usually wearing a white t shirt, jeans, and sneakers. He would frequently make sexist comments during the Sunday School meetings and made me uncomfortable.

    On the first day of my psych rotation, the resident was describing a patient we were going to round on in the locked ward of a mental heath unit. You guessed it, it was the guy I had seen at the institute. On introductions, I wasn’t sure whether to acknowledge that I had seen him before or just go with the fact that I really didn’t know him, so introductions were appropriate. I kept silent that I recognized him, and I really don’t think he was aware that I had seen him. I became aware that there are some very unusual mental health complexities that he suffered.

    We did some some home visits on that rotation and the Attending Physician oriented me to always stand to the side of the door when you knock, just in case a gunshot through the door follows the knock.

    So, hearing your story, I commend you for your approach you have taken. Since your first visit went well, I would agree to keep on visiting without feeling the need to draw him to the congregational meeting. I would try to learn, without asking too many questions that might stir any paranoia, who his primary care physician is, if he has one. If he has unmet medical needs…i.e. high blood pressure, then encouraging him to pursue treatment for that may be a non-threatening avenue to get him involved in a medical system. It may be a foot in the door to obtaining the mental health help he needs.

    If you visit and he is in a bad mood, cut it short and give him his space. Keep an eye out for needs that he has that he may not be able to perceive. Comfortable footwear, eyeglasses, grooming supplies, adverse weather clothing, undergarments. Watch out for a tendency for him to suddenly become very religious at one time, then very ambivalent another.

    If his mother is a member, consider recommending to the Ward Council that a Priesthood holder go with a Visiting Teacher during home visits (ie a husband/wife team), rather than two sisters. This post is really about the admonition in James to practice pure religion. I’m not sure what the Root Beer was all about, but if that was part of making this visit and this post happen, then cheers!

  19. While bishop I had a lady that was schizophrenic/ bi-polar. She was not a danger to anybody, but she made for some very interesting testimony meetings. Only twice as bishop did I have to ask somebody to sit down while at the pulpit, both times were her.

    It was very difficult for the members who tried to help her, as she would accuse them of stealing from her whenever they came to her house.

    Although it is sad, I was never so grateful the day she moved out of my ward to a different state. I don’t think she remained active, as her records were never requested by a new ward, and we finally sent them to the very large “Address Unknown” pile of records at the COB

  20. For one, it is rarely that people commit crimes because of a psychotic episode, with the exception of some paranoid schizophrenics.

    Otherwise, most psychotic episodes include stuff like hearing voices (which usually are just saying what a “normal” person is thinking inside one’s head) or some mild hallucinations that prevent acting in normal society.

    The overwhelming majority of schizophrenics (people who have frequent psychotic episodes) are afraid of other people, and wouldn’t dream of confronting them (one of Elder Morrison’s myths is about this). When one of them does commit a violent act, it is almost always preceded by things like drugs/alcohol abuse, frequent mistreatment at the hands of those one is supposed to be able to trust.

    With some of the shooting sprees people have gone on, much hay has been made about them being “mentally ill.” Often that mental illness is clinical depression, which is a big part of the motivation in their case to commit suicide. It is the media culture that creates a Virginia Tech massacre — the geeky guy who decides to end it all, who isn’t delusional enough to think you’ll al be sorry when I’m dead and gives them reason to be sorry.

    How do we treat those people? Isn’t that the biggest reason for their acts? Like young Mr. Cho of Virginia Tech infamy, he was one of those people, who wouldn’t get the time of day from anybody. Or last year in CA this guy who killed his family and then himself; his finances were a shambles, and he possibly thought he’d “save his family” from the shame of having to go through a bankruptcy after his suicide, so he committed “extended suicide.” In this case, the society’s fixation on “stuff” being a big part of the causation of what ensued. Or someone like John Hinckley, who does it just to be famous. Celebrity is just that much overrated that delusional people will do atrocious things to become celebrities.

    And, again, (and I know this for a fact) LDS Family Services (LDSFS) provides the services that LDS Social Services used to. Yes, they have people who facilitate adoptions, but they also have access to and expertise about psychiatric care.

    It would be shame if Ted had to go on a drunken crime spree in order to get his schizophrenia, that we so professionally have diagnosed here, medicated in prison. Prison is a hell of an expensive way to treat mental illness.

  21. This has been a very interesting discussion. It makes me think of my brother who has never been medically diagnosed with mental illness, but we know he would be if there was a way to get him examined. My brother is no harm to anyone, but a few years ago got way out of whack and started having prophecies and was expecting to be martyred soon. It was a scary time, but since he was an adult nobody could force him to get diagnosed. (or at least that was our understanding). Eventually he straightened back out to a level of semi-normalcy, but you can bet I will never leave him alone with my kids. I don’t think he would do anything to them, but he could very easily freak them out and scare them as he did once with my nephews.

    I often what I could do better to serve my brother. We do invite him to family functions, which requires an extraordinary amount of patience as he believes himself an expert on every subject matter. More patience is at least a step in the right direction. Thanks for the discussion, I’ll need to ponder this more.

  22. It is frustrating the lack of help available for the mentally ill who do not believe they are mentally ill. I have a few of these in my family, one having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which he doesn’t believe he has and will not take medication for under any circumstances. He is barely able to take care of himself but there is just not any easy way to help him. He can’t live with family as this results in violent arguments and constant tension. They’ve taken him to the hospital several times, but since he is an adult he is able to sign himself out and refuse treatment.

  23. Post

    Kimarie, that is definitely frustrating. I think what is so hard about mental illness is the fact that there is no definitive test, such as a blood test for cholesterol, diabetes, or a visible wound like a broken bone. If there was such a test, it would be so much easier to deal with.

  24. The most annoying misconception I’ve noticed in my dances with mental illness is that mental illness is synonymous with delusion. One can be quite debilitated with depression and anxiety or bipolar and not be delusional. There’s a double edged sword here, because people who think “mentally ill” means delusional are afraid of the mentally ill. On the other side, while doctors are more than happy to prescribe medications, it’s very hard to get disability status on the basis of depression because doctors confuse intelligence and self-awareness with mental health. (Being intelligent and capable enough to draw up a spreadsheet charting your own symptoms or insightful enough to speak brilliantly about your own thought processes does not mean that you have the capability to show up to work and be productive all day every day.)

    In my own case, it’s all convoluted because at the very same time I struggled to convince doctors that I had physical problems in addition to depression, I was seeking disability and was happy for it to be on the basis of depression if that’s what they would agree to. So on one hand the doctors were trying to convince me that I was so depressed that depression accounted for all my symptoms, while on the other hand, if I said I could not work, they said that I wasn’t THAT sick because look how capable I am and I just needed to improve my self-esteem! (LOL) As if capability has anything to do with exhaustion.

    My earlier posts about the Buddhist-style freedom I experience through forced non-attachment and deep acceptance notwithstanding, some days (like today) it still feels like masochism for me to force myself to work when it is like dragging concrete every second and I’m pretty ineffective with my time. Coming back to addressing this thread, on days like today I think about trying to enter the medical system again to seek disability status and I reject that plan every time because dealing with the mental health system can be so very stressful, which is exactly what a mentally ill person does not need.

    I think it would be very useful to find a consultant who had navigated through the system and knew the ropes and knew a think or two about how to get the desired outcomes with a minimum of stress.

    The man you write about has different problems than me, and in the hospital they keep the suicidals and homocidals and delusionals in separate spaces, so I don’t know much about what his experience may be like and it doesn’t sound like he’d be on the endless mary-go-round of arguing with doctors about how sick or what kind of sick he was like I did. But a couple of thoughts:

    1. I didn’t read in your post that you knew for sure that he WASN’T receiving mental health services. If he’s on disability, he probably is hooked in to the system.
    2. In most states, three people who believe a person to be a danger to themselves or others can have someone involuntarily admitted to the hospital. If they are even wishing they were dead, one person can do that. If they are involuntarily admitted, they don’t have to pay. (Though the hospital may not “voluntarily admit” that! Hee hee.)

    I admire your courage, but if it were me, the gun part would scare me. If I were you I would follow your intuition and really notice if your gut tells you that you are not safe. I’m just not sure it’s worth the risk when it’s not clear how helpful you can be anyway.

    On the helpful side, I would ask him if he needs any help filling out any paperwork or anything like that, and then try to connect him with services. Being unable to work can be a full time job! If he does need help, I would try to find an agency that will help, and not do it yourself, since helping with this kind of project is a good way to make someone mad. The agencies that help can be surprisingly hard to find. I would google “independent living” in your area. If you’re in Provo, I can recommend a private agency that does this sort of thing.

    OK, sorry for the long blathering….I’ll blame it on my mental illness…. 🙂

  25. Thanks Ecumenigal. I don’t want to attempt to diagnose him, or suggest he go to the hospital. I have no idea if he is currently receiving mental health services. I live in northern Utah County, so if I get to that point, perhaps I’ll contact you for advice. I really would like to keep our conversation on a very surface level, without delving into anything. Of course, I hadn’t planned on him telling me everything he did last time, so perhaps I may not be successful.

  26. Ecumenigal, I think if you do decide to go the SSI/SSD route, think about doing your paperwork on your very worst days–answering the questions based on those moments in time. My experience is I have had patients/consumers/clients answer them like they’re doing a job application–really strengths-focused.
    Also, there are people who will be SS advocates for you, prior to getting the lawyer (been denied twice) phase. I have found them to be very helpful. They get the same cut once the disability is awarded, but I have found them to be more helpful than lawyers. I don’t live in Utah, but I would contact your local SSA and ask if they know of people who do that.

  27. I had a similar home teaching assignment.  My person lived in a room in a house and was constantly afraid that people were poisoning him.   I helped him find some work at a recycling facility, but he was fired when someone caught him pouring something into someone else’s drink.  I worked with him for a few years and was at a loss at how to best help him.   Eventually I worked with the Bishop and we contacted his mom and his brother, both of whom knew his condition, but neither were aware it was getting so bad.   As a team, we helped move him to a facility that cares for people with mental illness.   That was several years ago and based on conversations with the family, it looks like it was a good decision.   My question for you would be if his extended family knows about your concerns, because his mother might not be sharing that with them.

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