NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Police are searching for a missing Chattanooga man who suffers from Schizophrenia and maybe in the mid-state.
Michael Wigfall's family says they're worried for his safety, having been off his medication since 2019. The last time anyone saw Michael, he was heading toward his Chattanooga home Jan. 20, and he may have gone to Murfreesboro, where his mother Tawana Corder lives.
He was driving a 2006 blue Chevy Trailblazer, but Corder says they're not sure if he's still with the car. Michael's belongings, cash, and cards were found at home.
"If he doesn't have any funds on him, it makes me think does he even still have the car? Is he even still in the car, how would he put gas in the car," Corder said.
Corder says she and Michael have talked every night since his diagnosis and on the phone, he appears fine. Michaels family in Chattanooga says lately Michael's symptoms returned and he was once again talking to himself. Corder tells us Michael has tried pills and even a long-lasting injection for treatment.
"Once Michael turned 26, he was no longer on my insurance so it was hard for anyone to help him see a doctor to get medication," Corder said.
We spoke with Robin Nobling of the National Alliance on Mental Illness who says disappearances like these are happening more often during the pandemic. Corder is the second mother in Murfreesboro alone, Nobling has heard of with almost identical circumstances. Noble says the pressure to simply maintain during an already stressful time has triggered symptoms for many.
"We need to start looking at this as a health condition. Quit separating the head from the body. This is a health condition and people need to feel safe going to get help for it," Noble said.
The World Health Organization defines Schizophrenia as a type of mental illness characterized by distortions in thinking, perception, emotions, language, sense of self, and behavior.
Noble has seen how this disease affected her own family and says it's common for people to take the medication only until they feel better. For some, relief could be almost instantaneous, giving people the impression they no longer need treatment. Making matters worse Nobling says, is the stigma behind the disease from those who see Schizophrenia as something to fear.
"Some people are afraid they're going to put me away and you may be subject to a hold. That may be true, but the reason is going to be for your safety," Noble says.
As executive director of the NAMI chapter in Davidson County, Nobling says you can always turn to resources such as those provided on their website: https://namidavidson.org/medication-assistance/.
You can also visit Tennessee's Behavioral Health Safety Net which covers everything from therapy to transportation and treatment without the need for insurance: https://www.tn.gov/behavioral-health/bhsn.html.
Corder knows this is one disease that's still very misunderstood, but she's encouraging others to see her son the way she does.
"Michael is not a bad person. He's my son. He has mental health issues, but he's my son and I want my son home safely," Corder said.
Anyone who may see him or know where he could be was asked to call Chattanooga Police at 423-643-7695.