Former intern has become mentally ill and sends numerous disturbing (but not threatening) emails. Not sure how to proceed.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Former intern is a female, mid 20s. Was quiet but nice and worked adequately, did not act out when she was our intern, about 2 years ago. Left when her "term" of being an intern was over (usually about a semester's worth of work). About 6 months to a year later, we all started seeing just a flood of daily, strange facebook postings on her own personal board about everything under the sun, but constant. It was at a rate that was far beyond normal, or just having a drunken few weeks. She then began posting strange, disturbing (but nothing to do with self harm) "artistic" semi-nudes. We were all taken aback as it seemed very out of character.
She then started posting very accusatory messages, saying that people had wronged her in certain ways, at school and at work. She accused people (by name) of sexually harassing her, having affairs with co-workers, pedophilia, you name it. Super conspiracy stuff. She'd usually go back and delete it after a day or so. To me, it sounds like schizophrenia. It has been going on now for almost a year. She will send certain people who she considers on her side numerous facebook messages in a week, accusing other people of all sorts of strange things, and then immediately following it up by asking for work. It is very, very out there stuff. We've all spoken with our HR department about it and while they want to be informed of the situation, they do not feel that anything can or should be done by them unless she threatens herself or anyone else, or says she's going to show up on our doorstep. She has not done any of that, at all. Work has beefed up security. Fortunately, she does live several hundred miles away now.
In my personal case, I did write back to her once to tell her that we had no jobs at the moment, but that she can always check the job board for our company. It is clear that she will never be hired by us, but I had hoped it would stop the emails. She found an open job that she was not in any way qualified for, but took that as me lying to her about no jobs being open, and emailed several people about how I "denied" her a job. I have no hiring or firing power at all. She's now accused at least three to four other people of "denying" her a job as well. Another coworker wrote her back once, to say he was unable to help with work, and also rebuked her offers of romance by saying he has a girlfriend. He's still getting the same "do you have work/do you want to be my boyfriend" emails over and over again, despite that.
I'm of two minds: I feel badly for the girl because clearly she is unwell. From what we can tell she does live with family. People have talked about contacting her family but I just dont know if it is the right thing. She's an adult, and I'm wary just because I dont know the role her family plays in her life - what if they are not supportive, or part of the problem, or would make things worse - or would tell her we spoke to them, therefore making us a target? People have also talked about writing her back in a very direct manner about what she's doing and telling her to stop in no uncertain terms, but I'm afraid of escalating things and I honestly dont know if logic would work at this point. Some, like me, have blocked her on facebook and via email. Others have not, and while they do not interact with her, they feel better being able to keep tabs on what she's up to.
On our end, the ideal situation would be for the constant barrage of messages to stop and for us to feel safe. We are concerned for our safety, but then we also wonder if we should be doing anything to help her. Personally, I've been through a stalking situation by someone who is schizophrenic and I'm very, very wary of opening myself (or us as a group) to becoming even more of a role in her scenarios. The advice I was always given is to just not engage at all.
We document everything, and for me personally, if she did threaten to hurt herself or anyone else, I would pretty much demand action from HR, talk to the police, at least. One can sit and speculate all sorts of terrifying scenarios where things can get very, very bad in a situation like this...We dont want to overreact, but we want to make sure we are doing the right thing for all involved. If anyone has any advice on a situation like this, that would be great, as right now we are just in a holding pattern of documenting and ignoring.