I try to see the “whole person” in real life; I try to be conscious of everyone’s flaws and redeeming features, whether I personally love them or loathe them. And similarly, on my missing persons profiles I try to show the whole person, show missing people as they ARE, not how others would wish them to be.
Twice recently, I got yelled at by relatives of missing people for saying on the person’s profile that they were addicted to drugs. Both people who were mad at me admitted that their missing relative was, in fact, addicted to drugs. But they didn’t want it said out loud, basically.
One person said it sounded “harsh.” Another person claimed it was “confidential” when it wasn’t; she herself had been trying to admit her brother to a residential drug rehab facility, a fact that was publicly known on the internet. They don’t admit you to residential drug rehabs just because you want a vacation. But nevertheless, she didn’t want me calling her brother an addict.
While I can understand why these people feel this way, as I’ve gotten more experience I’ve felt less and less inclined to modify profiles and remove perfectly accurate information like that just because a family member asks me to.
When I was sixteen I read an excellent novel that reminds me of this situation: The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) Basically, the story is about a high-school boy who mysteriously disappears, and the aftermath and how this affects his classmates and the small town they live in. All sorts of ugly rumors are floating around, and Christopher’s mother makes public accusations of murder against multiple people.
In the end, however, it turns out that Christopher had been desperately unhappy at home because his mother was very controlling and volatile, and he’d simply run away from home because he couldn’t take it anymore. Furthermore, Christopher’s mom had KNOWN THIS all along, but didn’t want to believe it, going so far as to lie to the police and conceal evidence. She would rather believe her son had been murdered than admit, even to herself, to she hadn’t been a good mother and her son hadn’t been a normal, happy kid.
It’s always a bit of a conundrum I have to deal with, trying to tell the whole truth about a person while trying not to cause additional pain to their family members.