Medicines used to treat psychiatric disorder have worked miracles, allowing millions of adults with treatable conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia to lead near-normal lives.
But the power to heal comes with a caveat: Anti-psychotics come with side effects. And once patients begin to feel better, they sometimes stop taking the medications altogether.
Sarah Rogers' symptoms began her junior year in college. "All of a sudden she had a breakdown," her father said. "She wandered around not seeming to know who she was or where she was."
She went off the drugs when she got pregnant and just after the birth of her son, now 2, she had repeated incidents of wandering away from home -- once from Florida to Oklahoma -- and was hospitalized.
An artist and musician, she had been on anti-psychotics since college. But the drugs made her feel "weird and groggy" and hampered her painting, so she stopped taking them about three weeks before her disappearance.
Elizabeth Lindell, who is bipolar and wrote a blog about Rogers for the Web site MomLogic, admits her medications -- zyprexa and topomax -- can make a person feel "weird."
The Los Angeles mother describes it as "a sensation of being in wrapped in a mental straightjacket while you slowly lose access to extreme feelings that have been a comfort to embrace."
Though initially the drugs gave her a "subdued" feeling, now it's like "taking an aspirin."
It took a year to find the right combination of drugs. "At first there's a down period when you don't like it and your mind fights it. You are used to those extreme feelings."
Often, people with bipolar disorder are highly creative like Rogers and use the manic phases to "channel" their art or writing.
"When you first go on meds, your work is affected. You're not able to stay up all night and write and write," Lindell said. "You don't have that charge."
Police have no new leads in the disappearances of Whittaker or Burton, but experts say other families can do more to avert crises like these.
Families of those with a history of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia -- even elderly dementia -- can register at MissingPatient.com before an incident even occurs. Time is always of the essence.
"If they go missing, you have to go to the police and wait until they come to the house to get a report, then they write it up and you wait until they go back to the office and then they may get an emergency call from someone else," said Caron of LostNMissing. "See how much time is lost."
Law enforcement can also tap into a Silver Alert system -- now in 24 states -- that can be used not only for those over 65 who wander off because of cognitive disabilities, regardless of their age. Nine other states have similar programs.
The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) is a clearinghouse for missing persons. It is a free online system that can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials and the general public to solve these cases.
But Sarah Rogers father is convinced that the system for reporting missing adults is flawed.
Just the day before his daughter took off in the middle of a "breakdown," her husband attempted to take her car keys away.
Both Sarah Roberts' husband and father called 911 and reported Sarah was "a danger to herself and to others." But police said she was an adult and they had no power to stop her, according to Robert Rogers.