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Psychotic Behavioral Profile

Previous Search & Rescue studies neglected to describe subjects who became the target of search and rescue efforts due to psychiatric problems.  In the Virginia database this type of search accounts for 5% of missing person searches reported. These subjects suffer from psychotic disorders with schizophrenia the most common. Another example includes substance-induced psychotic disorders.  Some of the hallmarks of these disorders include delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior.




Descriptive Statistics

Statistic Psychotic Retarded Despondent Alzheimer's
n (# cases) 25 29 65 87
Age (SD) 43 (16) 30 (3) 37 (16%) 76 (9)
Males 63% 60% 76% 67%
Females 37% 40% 24% 33%
Uninjured 72% 85% 34% 51%
Injured 5% 11% 11% 27%
Deceased 22% 4% 55% 22%
Investigative 5% 11% 10% 8% (25% in urban

Distance from the PLS (Psychotic)

Distance from the PLS Miles Kilometers
Mean 1.4 2.2
S.D. 2.3 3.7
Median 0.5 0.8
Range 0-8.0 0-12.9
25% 0.1 0.2
50% 0.5 0.8
75% 1.2 2.0
Max Zone 4.8 (92%) 7.7 (92%)

Find Location

Location Psychotics Retarded Despondent Alzheimer's
Structure 23% 21% 18% 15%
Yard (field) - 16% 3% 18%
Drainage 7% 21% 10% 18%
Woods 30% 16% 21% 7%
Brush/Briar 7% 11% 3% 29%
Road 23% 11% 4% 7%
Linear - 5% 13% -
Other - - 18% water 5% cliff 4%

Behavioral Profile

  • Shape of distance traveled curve similar to Children (6-12)
  • Fatality rates similar to Alzheimer's (22%)
  • Many will not respond to name (93%), but may be verbal (21%)
  • Some may be evasive
  • Subject did not travel to identifiable target
  • Often found in open woods (30%), structures (23%), or along roads (23%).
  • Tend not to penetrate into thick brush/briars
  • Large number of walk-outs (21%) and found along roads (14%)
  • None got "lost" in traditional sense
  • Lack of medications caused several searches
  • Median distance from IPP 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
  • Max Zone (92%) 4.8 miles (7.5 km)
  • Law enforcement evaluation for searcher safety
  • Consider limited field use of minors

Reflex Tasking

  • Early use of trackers at initial planning point (IPP)
  • Early use of tracking/trailing dogs at IPP or clues
  • Through systematic search of residence, should be repeated throughout search
  • Investigation critical
  • Early deployment of air-scent dog teams into woods and drainage's, start near IPP
  • Cut for sign along roadways and trails
  • Team should stop and listen before shouting name if not contraindicated
  • Subjects may flee, hide or move. Areas will need to be researched with continual importance of looking for sign
  • Subject may have a fear of authority, consider not wearing field uniforms
  • Develop contingency plan if actively evasive (may require obtaining emergency care order)
  • Containment important along with road patrols
  • Search urgency high

Study Methods

The database used to collect this data has been described in a previous paper on Alzheimer's.  The following modifications were made.  Inclusion criteria:  Following terms appeared on missing person record; schizophrenia, schizophreniform, schizoaffective disorder, delusional disorder, brief psychotic disorder, shared psychotic disorder, substance-induced psychotic disorder, delusions, hallucinations.  Exclusion criteria:  Previous mental retardation, dementia, accidents, homicide, or abduction.

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