Worried about a friend

I am not perfect, nor do I pretend to be. About little over a year ago I suffered through a divorce, and thank God my parish family rallied around me. I turned closer than ever to the church during the turmoil. I was granted an annulment on the same grounds I came here to discuss, but was met with much judgement by many people. That’s neither here nor there, I know it was a tough subject to discuss. Also, I do not feel I was a perfect spouse or perfect person.
Anyway, I came here again to seek serious advice. I have a friend of over 15 years, and I see signs of some pretty extreme behaviors. I fear mental illness for sure. During my divorce and annulment struggles he became violent towards me and my family. He outright verbally attacked my aged mother. His reasoning? My failure to keep my marriage together ruined his home life. To explain; he lived in squalor, hoarding, no water, and only worked twice a week cleaning our parish. I allowed him to come into my home twice a week to shower, and I gave him a lot of necessities like food and toiletries. I helped him financially on occasion. I tried numerous times to help him fix his well, or repair his home, but he would not allow me to even see the place. In fact, not one friend ever has. I am the only one that knows the extent of his circumstances. He begged me to never tell. So, I helped in ways that I could. He has resources, a brother nearby, a living father, and a rather wealthy grandmother. He has an uncle that cares as well. But he just will not accept help.
A few months ago he started coming into my home uninvited. He would show up and sort of take over. Next, he was waiting on me at home when me and my fiancé returned to my home after a date. No, she doesn’t live with me, we were meeting my parents for dinner, and outright told her she needed to leave. That he has the right to my home whenever he wants. I walked him to his car calmly, and he confessed that he stole money from our church. He told me the amount and the details. My fiancé heard it. She stayed the night with me as I tried to figure out what to do. The next morning, she and I went to our parish and talked to the priest, deacon, and parish council president. They are handling it with our diocese to find him help, but without a doubt he will be asked to leave our church.
You all know how church can be, suddenly everyone knows the story. I have parish friends blaming me for him losing his job, and saying I shouldn’t have told on him. I did it because I feared his desperation worsening to a dangerous point. I felt like I had no real choice. I sent him food and money the same day I reported him, and a letter kindly explaining the boundaries I needed. I guess I just need to know I did the right thing.

Jay, you’ve been a kind and caring friend. Yes, you’ve done the right thing.

You are dealing with a person who has a mental illness.

The best thing you can do for them is to seek professional help for them-- whether they take the help voluntarily or it must be forced upon them. Leaving mental illness in the dark and “covering” for someone is not the right thing to do. It only exacerbates the problem and leaves someone who needs help alone and without the help they need.

In addition to your priest, you need to report the situation to county mental health services and the local police. Not to get him in trouble, but to make them aware of his living situation and his volatile outbursts and his showing up at your house with delusions he has rights to it. You may need a restraining order at some point in the future.

Mental illness is not something you should try to handle on your own. He could become dangerous at the drop of a hat. He could do irrational things that could be harmful to you, your fiancé, children, parishioners, etc.

He needs help and that requires professionals trained to deal with mental illness.

You have done kind things for him and you can continue to hold him up in prayer. Do not worry about how this world judges, nor whether he accuses you of ruining his life nor if he becomes estranged from you. Mental illness works that way-- often those who care and attempt to help have coals heaped upon them. It’s the nature of mental illness, not a sign you’ve done something wrong.

As for parishioners sticking their noses where it doesn’t belong, ignore them. they don’t know the details of the situation.

p.s. I will tell you that when I was younger, and leading a parish young adults organization, we had a person become a member of our group. He was an “odd duck” but a generally nice person and he played softball with our team, went to some social events, etc.

Then one day one of the group received a call from him for help and he was in the county mental hospital. Turns out he had schizophrenia and was a long time in-and-out mental patient. I will say that mental illness is not rational, and often the mentally ill can be quite manipulative (without culpability as they are ill) and that happened. Certain members of our group rallied around him, gave him money, and such. And that was the wrong thing to do. After talking with hospital staff we had a better understanding of what he needed, and feeding in to his persecution complex was not helpful to him.

When he was released, he did not come back to our group. I don’t even know if he was actually Catholic. I am sure he moved on to another group who did not know his story. When on medication he functioned fairly well, but obviously he didn’t stay on his medication.

We were wholly unprepared to deal with a person with mental illness. We were caught unaware. We tried to do kind things for him, as you have. But, we learned that we were doing the wrong things as they were not helpful to his overall mental state. Get a professional involved.

Thanks so much for the reply. Some very knowledgeable parishioners, myself, and the priest are getting a professional involved. We want him to have a chance at truly getting help for his situation. I told them all what I know about his living situation, and that other members of his family share some of his traits. They are all paranoid people. They do not work outside the home in most cases, and two of them are also extreme hoarders. When asked why I told about him stealing from the church, I answer that I honestly saw it as a sign of rock bottom desperation. I saw it as the final straw if you will. Also, our parish is poor, so it cannot afford to lose any money. I will keep you posted as I find out what happens.

O most gracious Virgin Mary,
that never was it known that any one who fled to thy protection,
implored thy help or sought thy intercession,
was left unaided.
Inspired with this confidence,
I fly unto thee,
O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
to thee do I come,
before thee I stand,
sinful and sorrowful;
O Mother of thy Word Incarnate,
despise not my petitions,
but in thy clemency hear and answer me.

Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

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