Concern for Depressed Son

My youngest son is 18. He was a very easy baby. Of three boys he was the happiest and easiest as a youngster. The secret trouble came in 7th grade. He started feeling depressed and suicidal but never showed it or told us. He lost 3 friends to suicide between 8th-10th grade. He says this is not the cause of his problems. In 10th grade his friends became scared over his behavior and his comments about wanting to die and report to my husband, who is a teacher at his school, that my son was in danger of hurting himself. We immediately got him in the hospital.

The first hospitalization opened our eyes to what had been going on. He had attempted suicide and was cutting his arms and legs a lot. We never knew. I would check on him when he seemed down and he always reassured me that he was fine.

Then the frustration began. He ended up being hospitalized 6 times over the period of 18months. Each time he "felt better" and was safe when he left but before we knew it he was right back in. Cutting continued and suicidal ideation continued.

He ended up dropping out of school because he couldn't focus on his school work. He did get his GED in April of Senior Year. He seemed happier from Nov-April. He was working full time, had a car and some freedom.

Now it's July and he takes his car and drives 1000 miles away to clear his head. We had no idea where he went and feared for his life. Friends came forward saying that he was posting suicidal thoughts again. These were not his daily friends but people that he knew from his hospital stays. We see the posts and are even more shocked how dark his thoughts were.

This is not the happy little guy we knew. He has tons of friends, always has girlfriends and a job. He came home after we tracked him down with the help of the police and he says he is fine. He isn't fine. Now he is 18 and I can't make him go get help. I just dont know what to do anymore. Family and friends are constantly calling us telling us he NEEDS to be in counseling and on medications but he says he's fien and refuses to talk to us.

I am at a loss. Im scared for him. I don't know how to get through to him. He has lived with unconditional love from his dad, myself and his brothers. He was raised in the church. What happened? There is so much more to this story that I didn't add. I am just overwhelmed to think about what he has been through in the last few years and how do we go on without paralyzing fear


Well-Known Member
You would probably do best if you posted on the forum "Parent Emeritus" about adult children (over 18).

Hon, I feel f or you and your son. But depression is not about what his childhood was like. It is a biological condition and, yes, he needs treatment and probably medication if he is so bad he is suicidal and cutting. Are you s ure he does not take drugs? Has he been traumatized?

If it were me, and I know it isn't, but I would take the car away because he is suicidal and probably a dangerous driver and because he is using it to run away. If you are paying for that car, you are responsible for it too.

The laws in the U.S. are very bad about getting help for our loved ones. After 18 the short answer is, we can't. He has to do it himself and be compliant with his treatment. I feel he needs to see a psychiatrist first, the guy with the MD.If he liked any from the hospital, he can become a private patient or he can find another one. But he needs a diagnosis and probably medication.

There is no magic way to get through to him about getting help. If he doesn't want to, then I would tell him that we are done paying for his toys until he does and I would tell him he also had to sign a form saying you are allowed to talk to his psychiatrist. This would be so you could make sure he is really going for help. I would not allow him to drive around all day, or lay at home, and not get the help he despeartely needs. You can't make himl do it, but you can put the screws on him so he will lose a lot if he doesn't.

He does not sound psychotic. He does not have hallucinations or delusions, does he? If not, breathe a big sign of relief. There is lots of hope for depression. I have suffered depression all my life, since as far back as I can remember. I wasn't a cutter, but I did think about suicide. When I became an adult I got help right away and at 61 have continue to do medications and therapy, and stay away from things that hurt me like drugs and alcohol, and my life is good. But it was MY decision to get help and continue to stay mentally healthy and not quit after I felt a bit better, and this too has to be your son's decision and action.

I hope something you can bargain over, like shutting off the internet or cell phone or both, propel him to getting consistent help and don't let him tell you pot is his medicine. That doesn't help depression. I tried it. Alcohol is a depressant so that's even worse.

If he is currently smoking pot and drinking, he is only making it worse. In fact, that alone may be what is really going on with him. If you are not sure, search his room when he's not home. He's living in your have a right to snoop to try to see what is really going on. I'd personally check his cell phone messages too. If you don't kow w hat you are dealing with, it is difficult to know which tack to take. If it truly is just depression/suicidal thoughts then I think my idea to remove his toys until he gets help is solid and could work. If it is also drugs, that's a whole other story.
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Well-Known Member
Assuming he isn't on street drugs...
We thought (and were told by various professionals) that our son was suffering from depression and anxiety.
Then he turned 18.
And we got a whole different set of doctors and other resources.

It isn't depression - it's other things, which will take years to get him stable and balanced (but we have hope).
The biggest differences are that my son is "help-compliant", and we got the missing diagnoses within 2-3 months of switching to adult medical system. My son recognizes that he needs help; when he gets even a shred of benefit, he is willing to work the process. Not everyone is that way.

Sending hugs.


Well-Known Member
Notgivingup, I am so sorry you find yourself in this situation with your son. So many of us here are in similar circumstances with troubled adult children and little or no control.

The only thing I can say with assurance is that you will learn and receive support here on the board. I was completely ill-equipped to handle the problems of my child. I still am.

The only thing I know with respect to my own adult child is that I have no control. I cannot help him. He can only help himself.

The only thing that you have any control over is yourself and your home.
Are you sure he does not take drugs? Has he been traumatized?
I agree with SWOT, about the possibility that your son experienced a trauma or finds himself facing a problem to which he has no solution.

There are so many causes of depression. There could be some underlying disorder which needs to be addressed through medication. Or, some kids become depressed over something that they feel guilty or ashamed about.

The cutting also is not easily explained.

It may not be easy to get him to talk about it. Which is the crux of things. Your son holds all of the cards. The only power you have with him is to withhold things. You cannot make him do that which he does not want to do.

My son has a serious and mortal disease for which he requires medication. Twice he has stopped. I could pressure him to start again. I do not think I will. Because I see that I cannot control whether he continues. And I fear that it is worse if he starts and stops. What can I do?

I have thought about trying to get a conservatorship, so that I can oversee decisions that impact upon his living or dying. Is this what I want? To take away my son's autonomy and any hope there may be of his maturing?

These are horrible and heart-breaking situations we find ourselves in. Without answers, let alone easy ones.

The only answers lie in our children, that they mature to find their own solutions. But where does that leave us? All I want is that my son live long enough to mature. Is that too much to ask?

The solutions cannot come from us. The thing is we really do not know what our kids are doing.

My son, for example, has become attracted to apocalyptic conspiracy theories and he has come to believe that the world will end in August or September. Obviously he had problems before, or such a thing would not hold appeal to him. He encountered this way of thinking on the internet.

I am not clear whether your son is still traveling or if he has returned home. I agree with SWOT, when he returns home I would apply pressure on him to find help. I would not allow him to hide out. There has to be the expectation that he seek help and seek a solution. Whether you can force him to do so is not the point. As his parents you will have taken a stand.

I am at the point where I am trying to change myself, so that I am not destroyed by my worry about my son.

The parents here on this board understand. Most of us are struggling with similar things, or have in the past.

I am relatively new here too. In just 3 months I have learned so much about how to help myself, and my son.

What I have learned is that I am a separate person from my son. I know that sounds obvious but I never really understood this as I do now.

I cannot keep on feeling the distress and terror that I feel from choices over which I have no control. It does not help my son and it for sure does not help me.

You are not alone. I hope you keep posting. Take care.

we got the missing diagnoses within 2-3 months of switching to adult medical system.
IC If I may ask, what kinds of professionals helped you and your son to find the correct diagnosis?
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Well-Known Member
IC If I may ask, what kinds of professionals helped you and your son to find the correct diagnosis?
The same "titles" as the ones that gave us no help in the child and youth systems.
Licensed clinical psychologist for talk therapy, and psychiatrist for medications.
Between the two of them, nailed the remaining diagnoses within 4 months.

Two differences here (I'm not in the US) between under-age and adult services:
1) they are NOT willing to give serious, life-long diagnoses before the age 18, unless it is so severe that it is obvious.
2) they are NOT willing to listen to the patient, or to parents, until the patient reaches the age 18 (and even then, will only listen to parents with permission from patient)
My son did return home from his cross country trip. He left us a note and thought it was helpful but it scared us even more. I am trying to think of what I can take away or make difficult for him until he agrees to go for help but I just don't know what that would be.

He pays for his phone and all of his car. Right now the car is broken down so he has used our vehicle a few times so I guess I can not allow that. He says his trip was all about clearing his head. He said he wasnt feeling like himself and he just drove and talked with friends until he felt better.

I don't think he is activiely cutting again but of course if he was I wouldnt see any visible signs of it. We really only know how depressed he is because his "friend" gave us his user name for a website where he posts what he really feels. His best friends don't even know how bad it is for him.

He doesnt know we have access to that website but Im starting to think Im going to tell him that friends have come forward and they are worried about what he is posting and see what comes from that.

I am very interested in the posts about what I can do for me to cope with this. I am a constant wreck thinking about how much he is hurting and how I can do nothing to help him. I have missed work and spend many hours at home crying. I need to be able to function as well as help him if he would let me.


Well-Known Member
Hi Hope

First, you are probably on the wrong thread. You would get more responses on Parenting Emeritus. I do not know how to move a thread but other people do. You could ask a staff for help or you could start a new thread.
Im starting to think Im going to tell him that friends have come forward and they are worried about what he is posting
I think this is a good idea to take a stand by telling the truth to him. The thing is you need to know beforehand what result you want. I mean, will you have conditions and what will these be?

If you don't know yet it makes sense to me that you ask the community what they think. And you can do that on a new thread.
I am a constant wreck thinking about how much he is hurting and how I can do nothing to help him. I have missed work and spend many hours at home crying. I need to be able to function as well as help him if he would let me.
Good. Me too.

Keep posting. I will look for a new thread. Take care.



Well-Known Member
Go to "Parent Emeritus" and click on the thread about detaching. We have all had to do it if our kids were/are adults. And often this helps them do better. Not always, but it makes their behavior their own responsibility. We can't do much for them after age 18. They have to do it, but you can read about that on Parent Emeritus. Many war stories there.

Please, please get therapy, as IC said. It is very much in your best interests to get professional help to teach you how to cope with what you are going through. If you are a woman, I recommend picking a women ;)

Take care.


Well-Known Member
If you are a woman, I recommend picking a women ;)
If your primary purpose is to get help for yourself, pick the same gender as yourself.
If your primary purpose is to get help dealing with your son, sometimes it helps to have the same gender therapist as the problem child - some things intuitively make sense to a man, which would leave a woman scratching her head.

Maybe you need two therapists ;)