Any advice for finding this missing suicidal person?
April 8, 2011 8:35 PM   Subscribe

Any advice for finding this missing suicidal person?

My friend's brother, who has a history of depression, and has tried to kill himself once, has been missing for a couple of days. A couple of hours ago, my friend found what seems very much to be a suicide note from his brother.

My friend has done all the most obvious things: He has called the police, called the few places his brother goes, etc. (His brother didn't go to too many places, nor did he have too many friends).

My friend's brother had a cell phone with him, and it seems the police have been able to locate a general neighbourhood where that phone was, fairly recently, though not an exact location.

Right now - the cops say they can place the location of the phone within 300 meters or so. (We are guessing this means that they know what tower the phone connects to, but that maybe a more accurate location could be forthcoming. Does anyone know if this is right?)

There are a couple of us here, trying to figure out what, if anything, we should do.

1) Does it make sense for us to go to that part of town and start looking?

2) We want the police to be as effective as they can be in their search. Does anyone have thoughts on strategies for getting them to be effective?

3) Any other ideas on what we might do to help? (both in the next couple of hours, and also, I suppose, over the coming days if his brother still remains missing)

4) Any resources or anything we could be looking at to answer these questions?

We are in Toronto, if that matters.
posted by PersonAndSalt to Human Relations (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Dang. What a awful situation to be in. I'll be hoping for the best.

Can you ask the police how they feel about you going to that part of town and starting to look? It sounds like the police are responsive and want to help, but the two of you and whoever else are involved are extra bodies, and your friend might have more insight into where his brother might be than the police. At the same time, you don't want to interfere with the police's work by searching yourself, so it might be best to clear it with them first. Depending on the situation and your friend's brother's behavior, it might be best not to approach him directly if you find him, but to observe from a distance until the police arrive. They can advise you on this.

If you don't go down there, you can start poking around on Google Street View to see if you spot any places he might frequent. You can then suggest these locations to the police. 300 meters is a fairly small area, especially if he's not likely to be upstairs in any apartments or non-public spaces, so it shouldn't take you too long to scout it out either in person or online.

I would defer to the police as to what you should do with regard to calling the cell phone or trying to text him repeatedly. While it might be useful, you don't want him to get annoyed and turn the phone off or ditch it, assuming he's the one with the phone.

Where was the note found and do you have any idea when it was left? That might let you narrow down the route he traveled between the note's location and the phone's current location, and you can see if any of his haunts are near that route. Might give you a lead on someone who saw him, which will help you get a better idea of his current state.

It's also worth checking out for ATM and credit card activity, if he has any such cards.
posted by zachlipton at 8:57 PM on April 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, zach! We have looked into ATM and Credit card, but no luck. The advice about laying off the phone is smart, we'll keep that in mind.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 9:07 PM on April 8, 2011

Do you have access to his computers? This one really depends on how worried about him you are, but his recent computer activity, especially browser history, might provide some insight. Of course, the problem with this is that if you find him through this method and he's fine, he may shut down and completely distrust you in the future. I don't know, it's a tough call, but it may be an option.
posted by lesli212 at 9:22 PM on April 8, 2011

Does he have a car with a GPS unit that you could get ahold of? There might be recently found addresses in the vicinity.

How about checking his apartment/garbage for receipts or other info, and especially his computer, and talking to his landlord or neighbors (if this is his living situation).

What about Facebook... Is there any info on there that might be useful in the way of new friends or recently-attended events, or people commenting on aspects of his life or activities you are unfamiliar with, or photos he's been tagged in that might have metadata?
posted by alphanerd at 9:26 PM on April 8, 2011

Response by poster: lesli212 - he took his laptop with him. I'm pretty sure that's his main and only computer, but I will check. Alpha- her has no car. We will definitely talk to neighbours, etc. His facebook has been very quiet.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 9:28 PM on April 8, 2011

If the police were willing to ascertain his cell phone location, it means they are being very responsive (the police aren't the ones who track it, they have to work in coordination with the cell phone provider who can triangulate which towers are being pinged). Narrowing it down to a range of 300 meters is actually very good, and pressing them for greater accuracy might be counterproductive. But asking them to continue tracking it, in case he's using it and/or moving from place to place, might be helpful.

If the police don't have the manpower or the inclination to go check the area, you can go scope it out yourself but don't take any risks with your own personal safety, and keep in mind that the odds of finding him aren't that great unless he's walking around in plain sight.

The best thing you can do is keep in touch with the police, and keep thinking of anything that might be relevant in finding him no matter how obscure. Send supportive voicemails or texts to his phone, in the hopes that he'll call you back. I'm sending good wishes your way.
posted by amyms at 9:28 PM on April 8, 2011

Oh... And how did he attempt suicide last time? There might be something about the method that would clue you in to what to look for in that neighborhood... Like a pharmacy, if he used pills.

Also, Jeez, I'm sorry you're all going through this and I hope he is safe!
posted by alphanerd at 9:29 PM on April 8, 2011

Seconding the advice on rifling through his computer and recent activity history. It might be worth remembering that even if he is suicidal, there's chance he's just run away to start his life anew (this caused a major scuffle between a couple of my friends once).

This is why searching his browser history would be critical - he may have researched transportation means, plane tickets, job prospects, that sort of thing. Or alternately of course, means to help him with suicide.
posted by Senza Volto at 9:32 PM on April 8, 2011

Response by poster: One thing we are doing is trying to check hotels around the area. Sadly for us - there are at least a couple of dozen in that 300m area. We are going to try and phone them - asking if anyone checked in under that name. We have also put a photo of him online for hotel staff to look at.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 9:32 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

If there's been no credit card/ATM activity, perhaps you should be checking shelters in that area as well?
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:34 PM on April 8, 2011

Does he have a job where he'd have access to a computer you could check? Was there an event that triggered this that might lead you somewhere?
posted by alphanerd at 9:34 PM on April 8, 2011

alphanerd's suggestion to consider how he attempted suicide last time makes sense. Or are there any clues as to method in the note?

Also, if he's been seeing a therapist or counselor of some kind, it might be worthwhile to call his/her answering service and see if you can leave an emergency message with an overview of the situation. It's possible he discussed suicide or other thoughts during a session that might be a clue as to where he would go or what he would do. Even if the counselor won't tell you anything directly because of confidentiality, he/she can pass on any potentially useful information to the police if it can help save your friend's brother's life.

One other idea... Do you know what password he would use for his accounts? If he uses Gmail or other web services, you can see when he last connected and quite possibly get the IP address he connected from, which will help you and/or the police narrow down a physical location. If you can sign into his Gmail, just pull up the last account activity information. Facebook exposes similar, though slightly less detailed information through these instructions. If you can't log into his account, the police can contact these services and have them retrieve the information.
posted by zachlipton at 10:16 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all these ideas! We will try those we haven't.... There are four of us here. We're a little exhausted...
posted by PersonAndSalt at 10:32 PM on April 8, 2011

Not to say the obvious perhaps, but check hospitals in the area. We found a friend that way this winter who had attempted suicide.
posted by Sucht at 11:09 PM on April 8, 2011

If you end up going to the area also check in at local restaurants/coffee shops. Odds are he has been to a few (perhaps only one over and over) in the time frame for food
posted by edgeways at 11:32 PM on April 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all! We wish we had more access to his computer stuff. We have thus far focused on calling and emailing hotels (we feel this would have been a likely destination, though of course we are just guessing). The police say they are working on it, so we hope for some news from them soon. We are going to sleep now (it's late here) and we will resume out search tomorrow...
posted by PersonAndSalt at 11:47 PM on April 8, 2011

You might want to check local libraries too as TPL has free wifi. Talk to the staff and show his picture; the Police can request his recent account activity too.
posted by saucysault at 12:27 AM on April 9, 2011

You might want to try parks, beaches, gardens of abandoned houses - some suicidal people like to be around nature. Also - movie theaters because I have known a suicidal person who "hid" in one watching movie after movie while we looked everywhere and panicked. Churches are a good idea too.
posted by meepmeow at 7:21 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go knock on doors in that neighborhood with photos and photocopies. Tell people the truth -- it's just someone you love and are very worried about. "If you know where this guy is, please let us know. We're pretty sure he's somewhere in this area. Here's my number. I'm not rich, so I can't offer you a big reward, but if you help me get him safely back home, I'll try to make it worth your while." If he's not actually hiding, there could be a lot of people who have seen him sitting here, walking there, buying food here, going in this door, etc.
posted by pracowity at 1:22 AM on April 10, 2011

I'm so sorry. Hoping for the best for him, you, and your friend.

To follow up on pracowity's comment--if he is actually hiding, is he in a financial position to eat takeaway food? Is there a particular kind of food he especially likes or eats often? Can you ask around delivery places in that 300m area for that kind of food to see if delivery drivers have seen him?
posted by skyl1n3 at 5:50 PM on April 10, 2011

Nthing Facebook as a means of assistance - look for anything he's logged in, has been tagged, commented on friends posts.
In addition, when I was trying to track down a mentally ill family member last year, I would simply post a non-alarming query on his whereabouts as my status - just a "Hey, anyone seen Joe?" People who knew what was going on knew how to read it, and people who weren't in the know just thought we missed each other at the coffeeshop or something.
posted by 8dot3 at 1:10 PM on April 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for their help. Sadly, my friends brother did kill himself, and was dead when the police found him. He was found though our efforts: We used the police cell phone location to get a general sense of where he might be, and phoned the 35 or so hotels in that area. My friends brother had checked into one of them, and that is where he was found.
posted by PersonAndSalt at 8:40 AM on April 24, 2011

PersonAndSalt - I've been continually checking into this thread. Thank you for the update and my sincere condolences for you and your friend's loss. Wishing you all the best.
posted by meerkatty at 4:26 PM on April 24, 2011

I am sorry to hear this PersonAndSalt.
be well
posted by edgeways at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2011

I too am sorry for you and your friend's loss here. If it's any slight consolation, know that you both took his note and the situation seriously and did all you could to try track him down in time. In even this small way, you proved that he wasn't truly alone in this world. My condolences.
posted by zachlipton at 2:43 PM on April 25, 2011

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