Dear Annie: Recently, I've noticed that a "friend" on Facebook has been making very erratic posts, sometimes going on religious, political and metaphysical rants for hours on end. No one else is commenting on the posts or interacting with him. One person did ask, "Are you OK?" He proceeded to reply 50 times, going off on tangents about his no longer being part of this world, his being diagnosed as clinically insane, how he changed his name to better fit with the church he's created for himself and how everyone needs to join.
Though we were somewhat friendly about 10 years ago while in college, I have no contact information for this guy, and none of our mutual Facebook "friends" still talks with him. Though he hasn't been threatening self-harm directly, there are some very concerning posts, and he's mentioned past abuse. It also appears as though he's moved out of the country, so I can't call the police for a wellness check.
There are recent photos with friends, so I assume other people are aware of what's happening. So part of me wants to just ignore it all and mind my own business. However, part of me is concerned that I'm passively witnessing a mental breakdown and thinks I should help in some way. What do you think, Annie? — Witnessing an Online Breakdown
Dear Witnessing an Online Breakdown: I think you're not the only person who's been nervously watching his troubled behavior, but you may be the only one to do something about it. Start by sending a message to one of the friends with whom he's recently been photographed. Ask whether he or she has seen his posts, is aware that he seems to be experiencing mental illness and is taking any steps to help him. If neither that friend nor others seem to be taking it seriously, research some mental health resources in his area and share them with him directly. You can also use Facebook's reporting tool. Simply click the three dots in the upper-right corner of one of his troubling posts and then select "Give feedback on this post" and "Suicide or self-injury." Someone from Facebook will reach out and attempt to connect him with help. Of course, if he ever mentions suicide or any intention to harm himself or others, call 911. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is also a great resource.
I understand your inclination to mind your own business. But you have nothing to lose by speaking up, and you might end up making all the difference.
Dear Annie: I would like to respond to the letter from "Wondering in Massachusetts," who was frustrated with your recommending therapy. As a therapist who's also been in therapy, I'm always glad to see you refer people to therapy. Many towns and cities have low-cost counseling centers. I volunteer at one whose lowest fee is $5 per session, which most people can afford. I myself have a sliding scale that is very reasonable. There is absolutely no substitute for therapy in which someone trained in psychology, various treatment modalities and objectivity can help you resolve current problems, whether they are just about the present or they stem from the past. — Karen, LCSW
Dear Karen: Well said. Therapy is more accessible than one might think. I encourage people to look for low-cost counseling centers or, if that's not an option, to try websites such as Talkspace and BetterHelp. Thank you for writing.
Dear Annie: Please consider physical activity as an alternative to therapy. — Happy Walker
Dear Happy Walker: I'm including your letter as a complement to the above letter. Therapy is a great tool for improving one's mental health; physical activity, including walking, is another, and it's free.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]