Missing Adults & Mental Illness

We are an empathetic, experienced investigative team, passionate about finding your missing loved one.

Searching for Missing
Persons with Mental Illness

The missing mentally ill are among the most vulnerable in the missing population because of cognitive disruptions that can exacerbate their circumstances. Because mental illness typically manifests after adolescence, a majority of cases involving missing persons with mental illness are adults over the age of 21. This presents several challenges to law enforcement when investigating their disappearances. According to the non-profit Missing People, just because a person is reported as missing does not mean law enforcement will necessarily see it that way. There are many reasons a person might disappear of their own volition. After all, adults are free to conduct their lives as they see fit, beholden to no one so long as they do not break the law. Perhaps they’re a battered spouse attempting to escape their partner, or a person escaping harassment on behalf of people in their community, or maybe they just want a fresh start.

These assumptions leave missing mentally ill cases with a high threshold to prove the person is in danger, despite their diagnosis. Despite the nature of their mental illness, adults who go missing have the right to do so, and unless law enforcement believes that person is a danger to themselves or others, the case is often not a high priority. This leaves many families twisting in the wind, desperate for answers and relief of their worry.

This further exacerbates the inherent issues with searching for a missing person with mental illness. Their behavior is harder to predict, thus the typical methodology involved in a search may prove ineffective. That’s why the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends acting as soon as possible when a loved one with mental illness goes missing, first by calling the police. Information is key to finding any missing person, so providing law enforcement with all the information you can remember will be instrumental to locating them. Not just identifying information, but also details about their schedule or their daily routine can inform law enforcement of the missing adult’s habits. If your mentally ill loved one is missing for more than three days, you should request law enforcement enter their name onto the FBI’s NCIC list as an “endangered adult.”

Hiring a Private Investigator 

An avenue often unexplored by families of missing adults with mental illness is hiring a private investigator. After all, law enforcement is equipped with the tools and experience to find missing adults, especially ones with mental illnesses. However, private investigators have similar experience and tools as law enforcement, and can give your loved one’s case the focus it demands. Missing person investigators are rarer than movie and television might lead you to believe, and more rare than that are missing person investigators with diverse experience in searching for missing adults who are legally allowed to go missing. This requires a level of due-diligence that means turning over every stone imaginable in search of answers. At Lauth, our missing person investigators are comprised of former military and law enforcement personnel, who have experience with the system, and have access to verified databases to develop qualified leads. We have diverse experience in collaborating with law enforcement to ensure safe recovery.

Degenerative Cognitive Impairments

Searching for an elderly person with some kind of degenerative cognitive disorder can be similar to searching for a person with mental illness, including the lack of predictability, suggestibility, and lack of inhibitions that might otherwise keep them safe. Lauth applies similar methodology to cases involving elderly missing persons with cognitive impairments, even if they have a propensity for wandering off. We have tracked missing and elderly persons from their homes, nursing homes, and healthcare facilities.

Consulting with a
Mental Health Professional

When dealing with a missing person with mental illness, it’s important you seek the advice of professionals who are familiar with the complexities of their disease. Even if you have known the  person for many years, only an expert can speak with certainty to the details of their illness. Contacting your local NAMI affiliate or another accredited mental health organization can put you in touch with people and resources valuable in locating your missing loved one. Remember, these are vulnerable people who might feel threatened, or as if they have no way out. Mental health professionals can help provide answers as to why a loved one disappeared in the first place. Regardless of the specific circumstances, it’s important to have an expert on hand to advise both law enforcement and the family of the intricacies of the person’s mental illness and what they might do next.

Case Study | Missing Person | Missing & Mentally Ill

When your missing loved one is mentally ill, it presents a series of challenges for law enforcement and missing person investigators alike.

The Case

Lauth Investigators were contacted by the Clients, parents of an 18 year-old boy, the Subject, who was experiencing the early stages of a degenerative mental health disorder. He had been receiving outpatient treatment for his disorder for a little over a year when they started to notice his progress has plateaued. It was difficult for him to hold a job and he was withdrawing socially. He disappeared on his 18th birthday, leaving the parents with very little recourse, because he was a legal adult, and therefore had the right to disappear.


The Investigation

Lauth missing person investigators traveled to the state where the 18-year-old went missing and sat down with the Clients and began building a background profile on their son. After completing the background profile, Lauth investigators proceeded to canvass the neighborhood where the young man went missing, identifying the human sources in the case who could provide crucial context for the weeks leading up to his disappearance. Lauth reached out to law enforcement and missing person non-profit organizations to collaborate on developing the best strategy for location.


The Solution

After a day of investigation, Lauth missing person investigators determined the Subject had been coerced into leaving home, and was being forced into sex-slavery by a person he had met on the internet. Lauth developed a rapport with the Subject and convinced him to return home with the investigator.

Call Lauth Investigations International today for a free consultation on our missing person services at 800-889-FIND.

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