Overwhelmed and scared by teen son

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by JulieMarshall, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. JulieMarshall

    JulieMarshall New Member

    Three weeks ago, my 16-year-old son, Leo, lost his best friend in a very, very unexpected suicide. They grew up together, and were extremely close.

    It hit him extremely hard. And ever since then, it seems to me like he's been in a deep depression, but this past week it's gotten much, much worse.

    Leo's regressed further and further and he's like a robot now. His eyes have no light in them, and he's eaten so little that he's lost a frightening amount of weight. His sleeping, too, has been affected, and it's like he's going to collapse from sheer exhaustion. And when I try to even talk to him, he just ignores me all together and acts like he didn't hear me.

    He's been going to school, but he hasn't done any homework at all, as far as I can tell, and according to the online gradebook our school has he's pretty much failed every single quiz and test he's taken since his friend's suicide. Leo's very intelligent and his studies are important to him; he wants to go to Yale, and he knows he has to get good grades. And his coach called me and told me Leo quit the varsity soccer team as well--soccer was his life. More indicators of just how bad this situation is.

    And this morning, my 10-year-old daughter Nora accidentally bumped into him and he completely flipped out. Like, he screamed at her for a full minute and threw the box of cereal he was holding at her face before stomping up to his room (I'm just glad it wasn't something more dangerous). It was scary, because he's never done that before. Ever. And that's the most emotion he's showed in the last three weeks.

    I think that the grief and guilt and stress he's carrying around have completely buried him and I'm worried for both his safety and ours.

    He's very much the kind of kid that bottles things up inside, and I'm afraid that he's going to just explode or implode in one way or another.

    Leo killing himself has crossed my mind, and now I'm just about afraid to leave him alone for more than a few minutes for fear that he'll do something to himself. Just my paranoia, but still.

    I know he needs help. I've never seen him like this before, and every day it gets worse. And my gut is telling me that something is seriously, seriously wrong. I'm terrified.

    So I scheduled an appointment with an adolescent psychologist for yesterday.

    The thing is, though, that he refused to go. Point blank.

    Should I force him to attend a session? How would I even go about doing that? I'm a single mom, and he's much taller than me.

    But would that make things even worse? Would it completely destroy our relationship?

    Please help me. I'm so worried for my son.
  2. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    Hello & welcome. I'm sorry you had to find us (especially under such difficult circumstances). The first thing I'm going to do is advise you to contact our site owner/administrator to have your screen name changed.... you really want some anonymity for your son. Click on "contact us" at the bottom of this screen.

    It sounds like he is grieving deeply and I'd be worried too that he'd attempt to copy his friend with a suicide attempt as well. I would, if this were my child, call a crisis hotline tonight to get concrete feedback about whether your son may be in danger with this (presumed) depression. You want to know the signs to look for and help in re-connecting with him. If advised, please do seek emergency treatment. Don't wait.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2011
  3. tiredmommy

    tiredmommy Site Moderator

    I apologize, I mixed up your son's name as his best friend.
  4. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    He does need help. Whether he wants it or not. Ask the psychologist for ideas on how to best get him there (even if you can only get him as far as the parking lot). Ask about in-home visits. If you feel he's a danger to himself to someone else, get him to the hospital. If he won't go, call for emergency transport and tell them it's for a troubled teen.
  5. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    I would call his doctor/pediatrician and tell him/her about what going on. As in tonight. I would take this very seriously. Given my life experiences, I would probably call our local psychiatric hospital and ask to bring him in for an intake screening. Because he sounds really deeply depressed and I would be worried that he might harm himself or someone else.

    At the least see if he will call a suicide crisis line to talk to them about his friend's suicide.

    I am so sorry for his loss - it must be a loss for all of you if he and your son were that close.

  6. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    I'm so sorry to hear about your son and I am sorry for his loss...

    Now, I don't mean to scare you but - teens will and DO kill themselves after the suicide of a close friend. Your Mommy-senses are picking up all kinds of warning signs right now....and in my humble opinion, this is NOT just paranoia!

    If he is 'checking out' of his life and quitting things that are important to him - he may need professional intervention. Call the school - usually after such a loss, the school has counselors that can talk to kids and help those that are struggling to cope.

    And do not hesitate to take him ( or have police take him ) to ER or crisis center if you think for even a moment that he is thinking of harming himself.

    Better to have him angry at you...

    than not to have him at all.
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    If you can make him go for help, I'd make him go. If you can get a hospital to take him, I would do it. I'm not sure they will...they have really strict laws...the person has to be suicidal or homicidal to be forced against their will to be admitted. Have you talked to him about his friend. Has he EVER had problems before this?
  8. JulieMarshall

    JulieMarshall New Member

    Julie Marshall is my online pseudonym, not my real name. I'd never put my real name on the internet (it's pretty unique and very recognizable), especially when talking about my son.

    Alright--that's a great idea. I'll go do that now. I'd hate to miss something and pay the price for it.

    What would emergency treatment entail?

    Thank you so much for responding.

    I don't think I could even get him in the car, and I think that if the psychologist came into our house to talk to him, he'd just lock himself in his room and blast his music. That's what's so frustrating about this and him--he's ridiculously against getting help and I'm not even sure why.

    What's emergency transport?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to help me.

    I'll definitely call all our doctor, but it'll have to wait til tomorrow--they're all closed now.

    I just tried to ask Leo if he'd call a crisis hotline, and gave him the number for one, but he just walked away before I even finished the sentence.

    Yes, it's been really difficult for all of us. We all loved that kid.

    Yeah--I just looked up the symptoms for depression and I was like "check, check, check."

    They've had grief counselors at his school, but he refused to go when I asked him to. And, to tell you the truth, the counselors in our school district are pretty incompetent, from what other parents have told me.

    Can I really do that, get the police to take himself somewhere? How would I go about doing that if worst came to worst?

    Thank you so much for replying.

    Since he's a minor, do those laws still apply?

    Yes, I've tried to talk to him. Every day I've tried. He's just extremely resistant to any mention of it and will physically remove himself from the situation if there's a barely a hint of his friend or his feelings.

    He's had a few minor bouts of teenage angst before, but nothing even remotely close to this ever. Leo's never acted like this before.

    Thanks for replying.
  9. HaoZi

    HaoZi Guest

    Emergency transport... I'm kinda guessing at this one since I haven't done it myself, but I believe you basically call 911, tell them you have a kid in crisis that needs to be taken to a hospital for observation/treatment and is highly resistant. Give as many details as you can so that they can send the right team out to help.
  10. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    You can call the hotline and explain the situation. They should be able to get you connected with the local resources.

    When my difficult child was at his crisis and I called the psychiatrist to beef up the appointment (on waiting list for two months), I was told that if I felt he was not safe (meaning he could harm himself) than I should take him to an ER. The ER will help get him into a psychiatric hospital.

    Where I am from, there use to be what is called a physician's emergency where the physician can put a 72 hour hold on the person to keep them at a mental health facility while a plan is made - hopefully also to give medications a chance to start to kick in to the person can start to think rationally again? I don't work with the same type of clients so don't know if that holds true these days or not.

    By what you are seeing in your son, if he is not suicidal he may well be headed toward that path.

    Please call the hotline now and get input from them. Keep us updated - we do care and we are a safe place to turn to for support.
  11. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Having done this, you need to call 911 and tell them you need medical transport for a suicidal teen. Warn them that he is refusing to go to the hospital with you. Once at the hospital, they will screen (or call a screener -- it depends on your insurance). Insist that they admit him for 'risk of harm to self' even if he denies to them that he is suicidal. He can be admitted against his will for a short stay and depending on what he shares with them, they may be able to extend it if needed. This is truly just 'crisis' care and will hopefully break through his refusal to get help and then the progress they make can be continued in regular therapy andmed management.

    Once you get him in the hospital, contact the school and ask that all grades since the suicide be thrown out and that he be allowed to redo them following care -- (1) he can be placed on homebound and given extensions to do all his work or (2) he can do a medical withdrawal from the semester with no grades given and then make up and required courses next year, etc.
  12. pepperidge

    pepperidge New Member

    I am so sorry for you. I wonder if there is something he feels guilty for--like he should have done something to help his friend or that he made a remark that he feels sent his friend off or whatever.

    Your son's behavior is very scary. I think it is way beyond school counselor material. I would be thinking psychiatric hospital. Maybe after that looking at a clinically sophisticated therapeutic wilderness program. I know from experience that it is hard to do something drastic, you wonder if you are overreacting, but alarm bells are going off in your head and you will be glad after the fact that you listened to them. And if gets mad at you that will probably be a good sign and if you have a good relationship it will survive even if he blows up up at you in the meantime if you take action.

    It is very worrisome that he won't talk to anyone even after several weeks. All of his actions seems to be a cry for help.

    I called a suicide prevention line when my brother was deeply depressed and it was helpful to me.


    How sad.
  13. rlsnights

    rlsnights New Member

    You might try writing him a note. Sometimes I can communicate with my teens really well by writing when talking to each other just ends in disaster.

    I would put it to him point blank.

    Leo - I love you and I am worried about you. Are you feeling like you want to hurt yourself or kill yourself? If you are, have you decided how you are going to do it?

    If he won't answer these questions verbally or in writing then I would let him know that you will act as if he has answered that he plans to kill himself and you will be calling 911 unless he agrees to go with you to the ER right now.

    If he says no to those questions but your mom gut says he's not being honest, then see the previous answer.

    If he says yes, I feel like killing myself and I have a plan, you go pick up that phone and dial 911. You tell them you have a teen whose friend just killed himself and your teen is saying he plans to do the same. You want him transported to ER. They should ask you if he is going to go willingly. If he says he won't then you need the police to come and transport him for you on the basis that he is a danger to self or other.

    If he says yes, I feel like killing myself but I don't have a plan then you may have some breathing room to get him to a grief counselor tomorrow.

    I cannot stress enough that it is not over-reacting to act immediately.

    And if he says he is feeling like killing or hurting himself I want you to go through your whole house and lock up every single drug - OTC and prescription - where he cannot reach it. Tylenol, benadryl, blood pressure medications - everything OK? Put it in the garage if that is keyed separately from the house. Or in the trunk of the car. Anywhere so that it is not easy for him to use them.

    My thoughts will be with you. He is rightfully devastated and must feel terribly betrayed.


    And I truly hope you do not have guns in your home or if you do that they are in a gun safe that he cannot open and doesn't know where the key is. And where the ammo is stored separately under a different lock and key.
  14. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I agree with everyone else on this one. Your son is at a very high risk for harming himself right now. This is not the time to wait. The police and the ambulance will come and treat him well but they will take him to the hospital no matter what he wishes. Make sure you can print out his grades from before the suicide to after it to show his decline. Do you have any other witnesses or family members who can help to verify this behavior? That would be good too. Even if you could get the school to write you up some letters to bring with you to the hospital it would be helpful. The more ammo you have to show his downward spiral the more help he can get.

    At first they will put him on a 72 hour hold but you really want them to extend that longer by getting him before a judge to commit him for longer if he decides to fight it. My son never fought it because he knew I was doing the best for him but some kids will fight so you need to be prepared with all your ammo to show the judge just how sick he is. Of course, the doctors at the hospital will be there to help too.

    I wish you the best but I would be on that phone by day break tomorrow morning. He should be on his way to the ER as soon as you can possibly get him there. Every minute counts right now.
  15. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Hi Julie and welcome.

    My heart just aches for you and your son. I agree absolutely that he needs to be evaluated immediately. The drop in grades, quitting soccer, his isolation and withdrawal - all in the aftermath of his friend's death.... it's extremely concerning.

    Even as a minor, he can refuse treatment - long story that doesn't matter right now, but most states' age of consent for psychiatric treatment is well below 18. That is why you may be forced to call 911 to request transportation of a severely depressed/possibly suicidal teen to the local ER for evaluation. If it's determined he is a danger to himself or others, then he can be held involuntarily.

    I think depression after a friend's death is totally appropriate. That, in and of itself, isn't what concerns me. It's how he's (not) dealing with- it.

    Immediate action is called for, on your part. It's not overreacting. It's a matter of seeing some very major warning signs and being proactive in getting him the help that he needs.
  16. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Guest

    I have done this. I called 911 and had my daughter picked up because she sent me a text saying she wanted to die. An ambulance and police officers came out and brought her to the hospital against her will. A hold was placed on her and she was transported to the psychiatric hospital for nine days. They will do a suicide watch while he is given medications and therapy. I did not want to be responsible for the suicide watch. I would have never gotten over it if she took her life on my watch.

    Sounds like you have a great kid that went through a very traumatic experience. Prayers and hugs for you both!
  17. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I am going to follow up everything everyone else has said here. I had a friend pass away in HS - he had a disease, though I cannot remember the name now - and it was HARD on me. But I knew - there was nothing I could have done. Your son may not see it that way. He was so close to his friend - that he "should have" seen something was wrong and he "should have" done something. What, he won't know, and that makes it worse.

    Call the crisis hotline, call for transport. Do NOT wait on this. He will pull through - BUT ONLY WITH HELP.

    {{{HUGS}}} and lots of warrior mom strength right now.
  18. JulieMarshall

    JulieMarshall New Member

    Alright. So early this morning I went to go talk to Leo, knowing he'd be up because I don't think he's actually slept for days. I had this whole speech laid out, from what you all have told me to say. But before I could say anything, he took one look at me and started sobbing. I of course was very alarmed.

    I sat down next to him and tentatively put my arm around him. Leo actually nodded when I asked if I could talk to him. He made eye contact with me for the first time in weeks.

    Finally, FINALLY, I was able to talk to him without him ignoring me or leaving.

    He kept repeating over and over that it was his fault, and over a cup of coffee I got it out of him.

    Evidently Leo's friend had mentioned that he was thinking about killing himself the day before he actually did, and Leo didn't really think anything of it so he did nothing. He said that the guilt's eating him alive.

    Leo's sleeve ran up as he ran his hand through his hair a few times, something he does when he's extremely upset, and I saw rows and rows of cuts. It was awful. Leo's been cutting himself. I did think it was strange that Leo's been wearing long sleeves the past couple of days, when it's been so nice out, but it didn't even cross my mind that he might be hurting himself. This is worrisome because the friend killed himself that way, by slitting his wrists.

    I tried to ask him about those, though, and he just shut down again.

    So I decided that I needed to take him to the ER. I told him that he could either go with me peacefully or I'd call 911 and have the police and an ambulance take him.

    Leo didn't want to cooperate, or maybe he just didn't believe me, and so I mustered up my courage and called.

    I made the phone call on my daughter's cell phone, locked in my bathroom, because when I stared dialing Leo grabbed my own phone and smashed it.He just started screaming at me through the door to stop and that he hated me. That was...hard.

    Leo turned into this raging monster, screaming and throwing things. He scared me, and my daughters, who despite me telling them to stay in their rooms heard and saw almost everything (how do I talk to them about this?), are completely terrified.

    He barricaded himself in his room and the paramedics had to break open the door to get at him. Leo was like a wild animal. It was just awful to see him being dragged out the door and into the ambulance.

    I saw it in his eyes, the look of pure hatred. It was directed at me. That is what I was dreading.

    They did a physical and mental evaluation, and found cuts all over his body and discovered that he's malnourished. It makes me feel like a horrible mother.

    They had to restrain him. I don't know why he's putting up such a fight.

    They're keeping him overnight and are doing another evaluation at the psychiatric ward in the morning.

    I'm just worried that I'm doing the wrong thing with him and if I should have acted much sooner. Did I do the right thing?

    How much time should I ask his school to give us? Leo's in mostly AP classes so it's going to be extremely difficult for him to make all that work up. But obviously his health and his life are infinitely more important than his schoolwork.

    My best friend is at home with my other kids, but she has work in the morning and can't take off (my boss is wonderful and gave me as much time as I need). They have a day off tomorrow and I can't leave them home alone all day. What should I do about that?

    Sorry that was so long. I just needed to get it all out. And I want to thank you guys so, so much. You could have saved my son's life. I cannot express my gratitude.
  19. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not


    First - big ((((hugs))))!!!!

    It's VERY hard to have your child hospitalized...it just breaks your heart! Especially thinking that they are there just hating you for making the call...

    But you have to know that you did the right thing!!!

    My daughter was hospitalized for suicidal threats several times. At the time? She HATED me...and I felt like the worst mother on the planet. It was horrible!

    But just recently, she told me she was glad I'd taken her. She might have been dead, otherwise...
  20. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Julie - you are not a horrible mother. Cuts, malnutrition, depression... kids are really good at hiding a multitude of problems. You did absolutely the right thing, hands down, no question. You were concerned, you sought help, you made a decision, and you followed thru. I don't personally think you did the wrong thing with him. I think a better question for you to consider is what might have happened had you *not* acted? As for acting sooner .... we all wish we had the wisdom to avert traumatic events, but we don't. You did the very best that you could, and he's in a safe environment now.

    I don't believe he really hates you - I think he's ticked because ... who knows - his secret is out? He's now not in control? You know that he feels responsible for his friend? You interfered with what he was doing to himself? He feels weak/powerless/guilty/angry? There's no telling. And even if he does hate you (honest - I simply don't believe that will be the case), it was still worth it, wasn't it?

    I think I would hold off on telling the school a whole lot at this point. The only thing they need to know is that he's hospitalized, and you will update them when you know more.

    I would stay home with- your other kids tomorrow. It will give you a chance to reassure them and to talk about what happened. I'd be honest with- them- Leo is devastated by his friend's death and needs help, which he didn't want, so as his mother you had to make sure he was safe and got the help he needs.

    Leo is in the hospital, I'm assuming on suicide watch. He's well supervised and safe, and I think right now it's important for you to be there for your girls. Call him, if you can swing a visit later in the day that's great, but my gut says the girls probably need you more right now. I know that sounds odd, but... that's just my thought. You also need to check on visiting hours - every psychiatric admission my son had, there were very specific and limited visiting hours, I'm thinking usually 2 or 3 times a week.

    Finally and most importantly, you need to do whatever it is you do to take care of yourself. Today was extremely traumatic for you as well. You need to give yourself some TLC.