How to Handle the Mentally Ill After the SHTF

Mental illness
After the SHTF and the drugs dry up, you need to be prepared to handle the mentally ill.

One thing I’ve never seen talked about in prepping circles is what to do with the mentally ill after the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). One reason no one discusses it may be because there is little that can be done that is politically correct. So heed this warning: this post may offend you. If you are a big advocate for the mentally ill, then you should probably stop reading now.

In my defense, let’s remember we are talking about a situation in which there are no hospitals, no law enforcement, no EMS, no pharmacies, no drugs, no rule of law except, perhaps, the Rule of the Jungle, and where your survival may have to come at the expense of others.

I’ve seen speculation about what happens to people in prison after SHTF, but never the mentally ill, although there may be some overlap between those two populations. In survivalist fiction, the prisoners are killed by their guards, locked in until they die of thirst or starvation, or let loose to rain destruction on society. The results are rarely pretty. But then again, no serious, long-term, grid-down survival situation is going to be pretty. When government reports estimate the death rate will approach 90 percent in the first year after an EMP attack, the death of a few extra criminals will not cause much of a ripple.

Different Levels of Mental Illness

I am not a metal health professional, but I have had interactions with the mentally ill and know people who have worked in psychiatric hospitals. To have a reasonable discussion, I think we need to differentiate between those who are criminally insane or will be dangerous when off their meds and those with various personality disorders, depression, and other symptoms that make them difficult to deal with and unable to mesh with society. You could grossly simplify this by saying the former are likely to be murderous while the latter are more likely to be suicidal.

The Criminally Insane

Let’s be bluntly honest: the criminally insane are the ones that we have to hope the guards kill when the system collapses. These are the sick folks who have no regard for human life and will kill without a second thought and feel no guilt or remorse. If you run into one of these post-SHTF, you should hope they are neither smart nor charismatic because those that are could end up creating havoc.

Some of these people will be evil. Others will be driven mad by voices in their head. That’s not a Hollywood thing; some insane people believe some higher power is either controlling them or telling them what to do, including to rape and kill others. The drugs don’t cure them, they just suppress the voices and take away their will to act. If someone on these heavy drug regimens survives going cold turkey, they are going to be a danger to everyone.

The best solution is going to be the careful application of somewhere between 55 and 300 grains of lead injected into their skull at a high velocity.

No Control

The next step down is people who seem to have no filter over what they say and little control over how they act. They are as much a danger to themselves as to others. These are the people who used to be kept in mental health facilities but were let out decades ago to fend for themselves. When they are sent to psychiatric hospitals now, they are the ones who are forcibly injected with drugs designed to knock them out and numb them down before they can be released. Many will not or cannot take the drugs they are prescribed.

I think many of the people you see on subways and street corners of busy cities, including those who talk and mumble to themselves and occasionally gesture wildly in the air, fall into this group. Many will have sought to treat their underlying condition with drugs, and I don’t mean prescription drugs.

In my opinion, there is no place for an addict in any survival group. There is also no place for someone so off kilter that they cannot be a productive member of the group. If that individual is your son, daughter, father, or mother, then I am truly sorry, and you face a tough choice. There are people I know who are not be welcome at our prepper property during the best of times. They certainly will not be welcome during the worst of times.

The Personality Disorders

I’m going to lump these people into a broad category that includes those who are difficult to get along and who haven’t “played well with others” since kindergarten. Their condition may make it difficult for them to see reason and they may lack good judgment. That’s a problem in a survival situation. Your team members need to be people with good judgment, who can follow policies and procedures, and who will not undermine the team by thinking only about themselves.

I’m not advocating that you take these folks out and shoot them, but you will not want them on your team. If you find out after the fact that a team member has a severe personality disorder, banishing them may be a solution. If you are the leader of a prepper group, you must remember your duty to the whole comes before you duty to an individual.

Death and destruction may cause some depression and PTSD. Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

The Depressed

For some reason, people with depression seem to represent be a growing portion of our society. I’ve read that during World War II and other tough times, there was little depression, possibly because other problems dominate or because no one had time to be depressed. It is possible that depression thrives when things are well and will go away when faced with a life-threatening situation that keeps you busy and active all day.

Possible, but not guaranteed. I would then separate between those who are depressed and functional and those who are so depressed they are unable to function, cannot or will not do their assigned duty, and who may be a danger to themselves and others.

It is possible that the widespread death and destruction of a horrific SHTF even will cause people to be depressed. Having friends and loved ones killed, seeing the only world you know collapse, are going to be depressing events. I will not insult those who are depressed by this turn of events by telling them to “snap out of it,” but they are going to have to survive despite it or in spite of it. If a member in my prepper group is too depressed to stand guard or do their other assigned tasks, then they are too depressed to join us for dinner.

Mental Illness as a Survival Mechanism

There may be those among the survivors who survive because they are mentally ill. There may be people who were maladjusted to our current society who thrive after the SHTF. The ability to proceed while those around you are dying, the bodies are piling up, the planes are falling from the sky, and the world is changing for the worse may be seen through today’s lens as abnormal behavior. During TEOTWAWKI, it might be a survival trait, but a lack of emotion is also likely to be the characteristic of a lone wolf survivalist.

I am not going to judge, only remind you that surviving as a lone wolf is difficult, if only because we must all sleep at some point. Surviving as part of a group or team gives you the chance to sleep knowing that someone else is covering your back.

Whether you decide to treat the mentally ill with prayer or empathy instead of an injection of lead is your decision. I just want you to think about it now, while there is time to make a reasoned decision. Finally, keep in mind that there are indeed some very dangerous people out there who are excluded from society for good reason. Think twice before welcoming them to your prepper paradise.