How to help my son

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This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Moderator ★ Moderator ★ 5 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #6080
    Profile photo of ConcernedMom

    Sometimes I feel helpless, not sure how to help my son.

    I got him professional help and he’s now seeing a therapist weekly, which is great, but as a mother, it’s not enough.

    Because of confidentiality issues, I don’t know what’s going on with him. All I know is that he sees a therapist once a week, comes home, and back to behaving the same way.

    I don’t want to interfere, but I feel like I should be doing something more to help him at home, especially because he’s stuck on the idea of not going back to school, which is only a few weeks away.

    I would greatly appreciate any comments or feedback.

  • #6086
    Profile photo of Moderator ★
    Moderator ★

    Thank you for starting this discussion! It is essential as a parent to feel
    you’re doing everything you can to help your child, and it’s normal to feel
    helpless when you’re not able to be a part of his therapy. Confidentiality is
    important for the person in therapy so they know they can be 100% honest, but
    can also be really challenging to family members. Depending on his age, he may
    or may not feel comfortable sharing his feelings with you. Regardless it’s
    important to show him that you are a safe person for him to share with. It
    may be helpful to ask whether he feels therapy is helping him. If it’s not,
    ask if he has ideas for what would help. Sometimes therapy takes a long time
    before large changes are seen and that can be frustrating—both for the person
    in therapy and those who love them. In the meantime, try and do fun things
    together, and develop a relationship so he feels like he can open up to you.
    In the future, it may be helpful to see if you can even have a couple sessions
    together with your child and their therapist, or go to a family therapist.

    It is also common for parents of children with mental illness to put all of
    their energy into their child and forget to do nice things for themselves.
    Parents can benefit by focusing on themselves in kind and compassionate
    ways, and engage in some self-care.

    Click here to check out our post on family communication.

    Click here to check out our post on self-care.

  • #6111
    Profile photo of ConcernedMom

    After reading your reply, something happened that made me realize this.

    It’s not about feeling helpless or not knowing what’s going on with my
    son or not knowing how to help him.

    The fact is that I have always figured out how to help him and how to
    get him the help he needed, even when there was none.

    It’s about not trusting the system to help my son, and what happened
    recently validates my feelings. After just a few sessions, my son’s
    therapist is gone.

    Do you know how hard it is to persuade a 17-year old to go to therapy?
    And how harder it’s going to be having to do it again?

    For the first time, I was going to step aside and not interfere and
    then this happened. Once again I’m left hanging, having to figure
    out what to do next, at a time when I desperately needed help.

    I’ve been navigating the mental health system for over 20 years.
    First, to defeat my own demons of depression and anxiety, and now,
    to help my son do the same.

    Time after time we are let down by a system that doesn’t work.
    As far as I’m concerned, at the end of the day, I am the one that
    my son can rely on always and unconditionally, even when he doesn’t
    want my help…like now.

    So, here I go again, back to the drawing board. Back to figuring out
    how to help him. Yes, it would be nice to have a family therapist
    help us. Unfortunately, I cannot sit and wait as it could take months
    before we can find someone or get an appointment.

    No, I have to do something now because I’m running out of time.
    The older my son gets, the less influence I have to persuade him to do anything.

    • #6169
      Profile photo of Moderator ★
      Moderator ★

      Wow, that is SO frustrating…

      It seems that you do recognize how helpful and supportive you have always
      been for him and that in the past, you have been able to get him help.
      You have some evidence that you might be able to get him help again.

      You have already expended so much effort to persuade him to get therapy
      and now it feels like an uphill battle. Has your son looked at our
      adolescent and young adult site, On that site, we try to
      address through easy to read blogposts, a lot of the common reasons why
      a young person might not want to get help for their depression or anxiety.
      We also offer articles written by peer ambassadors who share their own
      stories on their ups and downs with depression
      and anxiety. Our hope is and what we are studying is that this site will
      help parents like you out who are having trouble getting your child into

      One thing that we do know is our site is trying to address only a small
      issue in mental health treatment, but there are MULTIPLE other problems
      with the mental health care system. Some recent developments, though,
      show that integrated behavioral health can be of benefit to adolescents.
      This is when a primary care provider and a therapist work as a team to
      track and help out an adolescent with depression. Unfortunately, this
      isn’t available to everyone, but if you haven’t tried the primary care
      provider, it might be a place to start. Another place is the insurance
      company – they can have care managers who might be able to help you
      navigate the system.

      We can’t begin to understand how you might feel about running out of
      time to persuade your son, but we hope some of these suggestions might
      help. Although it feels like this now, in the future even when your son
      is not around you as much, he will carry the lessons you taught him and
      values you shared with him right there in his brain. We have some examples
      of this: a 2010 study by Commendador reviewing scientific articles found
      that when mothers talked to their children about sex, their children
      started having sex at an older age and used more birth control.

      Please take care and keep us updated.

    • #6167
      Profile photo of LeighJB

      I am another worried mother at a loss as to how to help her teenage son.
      My son (15) has almost completely isolated himself, answers every
      question with “I don’t know”, rarely leaves the house, shows no interest
      in anything except video games (and he deleted all of those yesterday),
      and has repeatedly posted on twitter that he wants to die. He has also
      experimented with cutting, and a week ago, said to my husband, “When I
      kill myself …” We were extremely grateful to find a children’s regional
      crisis program that is coming to the house to provide therapy, but my son
      refuses to participate. (He refused to talk, stared at the phone, left the
      room, turned on the tv, etc.) He posted on twitter that he knows he is
      in need of serious help, but doesn’t want it. His only means of coping
      with stress, anxiety and pain is to watch video games, play video games,
      or other stuff on youtube or snap chat, which of course leaves him emptier
      than when he started. We have hidden all the knives, scissors, sharp
      objects, medicines, and alcohol, and we never leave him alone (we even
      have him sleeping in our room at night), but how long can this go on?
      What on earth can we do?

      • #6172
        Profile photo of Moderator ★
        Moderator ★

        Wow thank you for posting. We are definitely very concerned
        about your son from what you shared. It sounds like he needs
        immediate crisis attention and will reach out to you in private.
        You are definitely taking the right precautions for his safety.
        If the regional crisis program is not enough, then sometimes
        hospitalization is needed to get things started. Here is
        some information from NAMI about all of the different options
        for getting treatment during a crisis:

        Also, the national suicide hotline can connect you to your
        county crisis services whenever needed: 1-800-273-8255

        Please take care of yourself too and use your social support
        network to help you out during this difficult time.
        Let us know how it goes.

  • #6249
    Profile photo of Mercer

    I have the same questions as the other parents, and the same fears. My son is 24, and was blessed with a genius level IQ. Life was perfect until midway through his junior year of high school, when he began having anxiety issues and panic attacks. There were no external factors at that time that would have triggered these changes, but they were real and caused physical symptoms. The headaches and stomach issues were thoroughly tested, and while both real and debilitating, had no physical cause that could be addressed. He has seen numerous doctors since, both for mental health and physical health. He has been prescribed a whole slew of medications over the years, most rather ineffective, all having side effects that were as bad, or worse than the issues he was trying to resolve. He is 24 now, and 3 classes away from an engineering degree, but in spite of his intellect, he feels that he can only operator on 25-30% of his capability, and college has been a challenge. He has been seeing a new doctor who has prescribed him Venlafaxine and has an appointment with a new Psychiatrist in the coming weeks. He and I are not giving up, but the number of medications he has taken over the years is quite large, and knowing their success/failure is far from immediate. I understand that there is a genetic test that may identify the drug, or family of drugs that may be most helpful to a given person, and am looking for information so that we are armed with some facts. I pray for my son, and for yours. I never thought we would be faced with this, and never considered the pain for all involved. I am sympathetic, if not helpful.

    • #6830
      Profile photo of Moderator ★
      Moderator ★

      @mercer thank you for sharing (and sorry for the delayed response – this site is a work in progress!). It is very difficult to have to go through so much trial and error with different medications. Some people do have a different genetic make-up and respond to medications differently because of it – although the research to figure out how and why is still in its early stages. What you are referring to is called psychopharmacogenomics or how psychiatric medications have genetic differences between individuals. Here is some more information from Mayo clinic about it: Sometimes when medications are not working, establishing a relationship with an individual trained in therapy that can treat your son’s symptoms can help – there are multiple factors that make therapy work or not work and we encourage you to check out our site’s articles for more info on this! Thanks again for your thoughts.

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