Help with mentally ill son

one sad parent

New Member
Hi, I have been stalking this site for 8-9 months and have only posted once or twice briefly in response to others' problems. I have needed you guys in the past, but held off. Now, I really need you as I can't hold off any longer.

My 22-year-old son has been cycling downward now for at least 3 years. His inability to focus or regulate his sleep led to his withdrawal from college. When he came home, he confessed that he had resorted to Adderall use and abuse to stay awake and study, robo-tripping, pot smoking (of course), and some other things. We quickly forgave him, tried for a year and a half to help him steady his ship, which included psychological testing, counseling (he quit after 5 sessions), use of our car while he attended a local college part-time and went to work (quit the college classes twice mid-semester and got fired from three jobs in a a row), and living here rent free. After a year and a half, we kicked him out of the house but paid his rent in his new hometown while he looked for work. After nine months, it was clear that he was spiraling downward even faster. No job, staying in his room surfing the internet, walking around town stealing books from the public library, doing what-I-don't-know, but nothing good came of it.

Long story short, some old college friends took him to the hospital, and from there he went to a mental hospital where he was diagnosed manic-depressant (a.k.a. bipolar I). The substance abuse appears to be minimal at this point--some pot and alcohol because he really couldn't afford it anyway, but I could be wrong. Bottom line he is S-O-O-O-O-O SICK. He is truly, truly mentally ill. When we saw him in the mental hospital, he was just a crumbled, belligerent, narcissistic shadow of his former self. I can't even convey in words to you how painful it was to see him like this. Yet, we saw it coming. It was really just an advanced version of what we saw nine months earlier when he left home.

We got him into one of the best treatment centers in the country for his condition. After two weeks they have had it with him. He won't take his medicine. He is very hyper manic and will not listen to reason at all. He can't get along with anyone in his house, won't listen to the psychiatrists, the counselors, the owner of the treatment center, etc.

They told us to come get him, but my husband got on the phone and explained to our son that this is the final stop for him. We will not be going to get him. If he doesn't take his medication and do what they say, he is out on the streets in this new and strange town (out of state, too). He has no friends at all in this new state--nowhere to go.

Our son promised to do what he was told but we know it will not last. They are transferring him to a mental hospital again where they can basically make him take his medications in order to get stabilized. At that point, they have agreed to give him another try in the treatment center if he is stable.

I give this less than a 5 percent chance of working. It is heart breaking. What should we do? We know tough love doesn't work with our son because he is TRULY INCAPABLE OF TAKING CARE OF HIMSELF. HE CANNOT FIGURE IT OUT like others do when they are kicked out of the house. He cannot bathe or organize his thoughts in order to even find a job, much less keep one, and he will simply end up God-knows-where.

It was easier to kick him out the first time because we had not tried it before, and we did not know how sick he was. Now we know. And we feel some obligation to help him, but we do NOT feel comfortable bringing him home again. We have two other children living at home who have no issues. Don't feel it's right to expose them to anymore of this.

Any advice? What can we do? How can we, or anyone, put someone so mentally ill out on the streets?

Feeling Sad

Well-Known Member
Good evening. I am so sorry that you are going through this. I have gone through something similar. My eldest son was highly gifted and never caused an issue. When he was 24 he lived at home still. He had lived with friends when he was 21, but after a few months, he had moved back home. They had said that he was acting strangely because he was always in his room.

At 24, he started to work less, see his friends less, and stayed in his room a lot more. He started to look less well kept and seemed more quiet. I tried to get him into counseling.

I had just 1 of my two sisters schizophrenic at the time. The other sister had late onset schizophrenia at a later date. I am a special education teacher. I was hoping that he was not presenting with schizophrenic symptoms.

At 25, he stopped going to school and working. I went into his room, which he kept very, very private, due to flooding. He came home and took one look at me and ran off. He left the state and lived up north in Washington in his car for a year. He never called but I looked at his bank statement. He told me later that a man was following him. I placed a missing persons report. I flew up there twice to try to find him. He never did anything wrong, but he was stopped twice and was told to call home. He never did.

He came home exactly one year later. We then paid for an apartment for him under the conditions that he go to college and work. He never did either. He let his new cell phone I purchased for him die and never let us into the gated entrance...even for holidays. He saw no friends. After 5 months, he moved back home.

NINE years passed with him at home not working, going to school, or seeing his friends. He refused any type of treatment or therapy. He wouldn't even go to a doctor for a physical. He would not take a fun, non-academic class, have a hobby, or do volunteer work.

I have been asked, now, by counselors why I let him move back home. I have been asked what type of requirements I had told him were needed to live at home.

He continued to get worse. He spent more time in his room. He lost weight. He became very, very violent. My other 2 younger sons started to sleep with knives for their own protection. You mentioned younger siblings. My other sons feared for my safety. They gave me mace and put a lock on my door.

He destroyed thousands of dollars of furnishings, floors, walls, ceilings, etc. He took away a 'normal' life for my other two sons. One son chose to not go away to college. The other turned down a very lucrative job in his field. I did not know. They felt like they had to protect me.

There are no good answers have to find the one this is the best for all concerned. I grew up with a schizophrenic sister threatening my life starting at age 11. My childhood ended. I lived in fear.

Yes, schizophrenia is more serious than being bipolar. But, they both can cause major issues with the family.

I was forced 2 months ago to get a restraining order against my son. He was talking to his voices about killing me. Three weeks before that he had threatened me with a jagged bottle if I called the police.

Do I think my son is okay out there on his own? No. My heart is breaking. But I had to keep my youngest son safe and my ill son safe from his possible actions, prison, or knowing he had hurt us in the throes of his delusions.

Your son needs help. He has not followed through on his promises before. If he has misbehaved in assisted living situations, what makes you think that he won't at home? I know that you love your son. You would not be trying to find a solution for him if you didn't.

You need to ask yourself what is best for everyone, not just him. My sons don't say much, but they hold a resentment because the squeaky wheel, my ill son, got all of my attention. We had no one over to the house for the last 6 years.

Speak to a counselor with your husband to evaluate options. Now...sadly I wish that I had been stricter and had set rules to be met 9 years ago. Maybe he would be better today. Maybe, he should have never come back home to live after his time in the paid apartment. I have been told by numerous therapists that I did not help him by letting him live at home. I allowed him to stay in his room. Love is not always helpful.

It is difficult for me to write these things. Yes, I miss my son. Yes, I worry every day. Yes, I had gone through it once before.

I found out that he is going to the shelter. I received a bill in the mail for lab work at the medical facility. Yes, the shelter could be just for showers and the labs for a TB clearance to go to the shelter, but I have to have hope.

Please, consider all angles of the situation. I now go to NAMI support groups. Parents of bipolar, schizoaffective, schizophrenic children, as well as other diagnosis, ask about kicking their mentally ill children out of the house. I tell them I tried to help him for 9 long years. To do it again...I would do it differently.

Feeling Sad

Well-Known Member
I forgot to mention a very important point. Hospitals often want to have the parents take their child back home...and thus the responsibility. If you say no, it falls back onto them. They are then responsible for his care. There are several parents going through the same thing in my support groups. They will often keep calling you or try to make you feel like you are bad parents. He needs professional help.

I tried to get my son involuntarily committed that day police served my son with a restraining order. He lied and sad he was just depressed and joking about killing me. The police told me later that he did not qualify as being a threat to others or himself or gravely disabled.

You are very, very fortunate that your son is in a hispital. He can receive help. Yes, they have to want to get better and stay on medications. But with continued medication and therapy, your son might realize this.

We are here for you. Keep posting. I have been a member for just two months. It truly helps! Take care.
This is a very, very difficult situation to be in. Hopefully, once he's taking medications in the hospital, he will start thinking more rationally again and be willing to continue treatment. But he may not. I think you cannot take him back into your house. Keeping him out will force the hospital and treatment center to take more responsibility for him. Also, as Feeling Sad told you, taking him home will probably not help him at all and may make him worse. He may need to be out in the streets having a miserable life before he begins to be motivated to change things. If he's living at home, he'll have no incentive to do anything different. His mental illness might prevent him from seeing this either way, but you will at least be protecting yourselves.

Could you try to have him involuntarily committed? Maybe to a long-term institution rather than just a mental hospital. There aren't many facilities left and it's hard to get a commitment, but since he's so ill right now, it would be more likely.


one day at a time
Welcome to the forum, One Sad Parent. I'm so sorry that you need to be here, but you are at a good place.

This has to be so hard. I have been thinking about your post since I read it this morning early. I have been thinking about my son and his situation and your son and your situation.

One thing I wanted to share with you: When I was in therapy during the last years of my marriage, I talked with my therapist a lot about my husband's (now ex) anxiety and depression. He finally had agreed to take antidepressants after a lot of pushing from me. He also was an alcoholic (now in recovery). I said to my therapist: Well if he's mentally ill, then I can't blame him for his behavior. He can't help it. So what I am supposed to do? I am miserable and he will do little to nothing to help himself.

She said: He is always accountable for his actions and his behavior, unless he is completely psychotic and doesn't know reality (which was not the case).

I know you are describing your son's bipolar behavior, and I know that is more serious than my ex-husband's anxiety and depression. My son's girlfriend (I'm hoping she's still an ex-girlfriend) is bipolar and she won't take the medication regularly. Most of the time, she's fine and nice to be around. Some of the time, she goes completely off the rails. She has been charged with domestic assault against him twice. She is getting out of jail today for that. In her case, she knows reality and she won't do anything to help herself, in terms of treatment. She might do it for a while, and then she stops. I know the treatment has side effects, and I'm not trying to judge about that.

What I am trying to say is this: If people know they have a serious disease, and they understand that they have a serious disease, and they aren't psychotic and do know reality, and they still won't comply with treatment, where is the responsibility? To me, this is a big question and one that kept me up at night for weeks and months and years with my son and my ex-husband.

In my son's case, he also has anxiety and depression, and he used drugs and alcohol (like his father did) to make himself feel better. He knew reality, even though he had a diagnosable mental illness.

I'm not trying to say any of this is easy. I know it is not, and in any case, your heart is breaking. Your son is very ill, and you can't have him in your home, and so where is he to go?

In this country today, our mental health system is in shambles. It is a crime. We must do better, but that's another topic.

I have so much empathy for you. I am so sorry you are having to make this Sophie's Choice. That's what it is, an almost impossible choice.

I also believe this, you can't throw your life away for another person, even when that person is your son. I finally had to accept that. I finally had to say this: You can't be here, even though you are living on the street with nobody and nothing. Believe me, that cost me greatly, but I got to the point where that was the only choice I could make. He was impossible to be around.

We are glad you are here. We work hard here to create a space where there is care, concern, encouragement, support and options/ideas. We can't know what is right for you. We respect your choice and your decisions as you are the only one who knows the whole story. And we can only do what we can live with.

Please know we care and you're not alone.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member

I am so sorry for all that you have been through.

I don't have much to offer as I do not have any personal experience with bipolar. I do however know that people can function quite well if they are willing to take their medications.

I'm glad they will give your son a second chance and also that you told him this is it. That is really all you can do.

Others who have dealt with this will come along and offer what they can.

@Feeling Sad has offered you some good advice.

Sending you ((HUGS)) for your hurting heart.


Well-Known Member
Hi and welcome, OSP!

I'm sorry your son is dealing with mental illness.

I am also glad he is going to the hospital to get stabilized and back to the treatment program. There is hope that this can help.

It sounds like you have minor children living in your home?

Their needs come first, OSP. They can't be subjected to your older son's out-of-control behavior. Remind yourself of this.

Can you talk to the hospital about the possibility of getting your ill son on disability and into a group home or Section 8 housing (or whatever option may be available).

Please stay with us and continue to post.

We are here for you.


Scent of Cedar *

Well-Known Member
They told us to come get him, but my husband got on the phone and explained to our son that this is the final stop for him. We will not be going to get him. If he doesn't take his medication and do what they say, he is out on the streets in this new and strange town (out of state, too).

You did the right thing.

We have lived through what you are experiencing, sadparent. I believe you and husband have been following the correct path in how you see your son and his mental status, and in how best to help him. I believe husband's actions now are the correct thing for you to try, next. The situations our children present have horrifying consequences, for them and for us, too. My heart goes out to you and your family. I know what it is to love a child who is self-destructing. That is what it feels like. That they are endangering themselves intentionally. We wonder where we went wrong. We try so desperately to learn how to help them. We cannot put the pieces together, because nothing fits. The kids say and do the strangest, most hurtfully self destructive things and we come to a place where everything we have done, everything we have been able to learn about how to help both them and ourselves hasn't worked.

That is so scary a place to be.

None of this is your fault. We are a collection of parents who have parented in every way imaginable and yet, our troubled adult kids are taking the same kinds of actions, are responding to us, and to everyone who tries to help them, in the same ways. The kids seem to be throwing their lives away with both hands. It is a helpless, horrifying reality we are living through with our kids. It goes from bad to unimaginably worse in a twinkling.

I am glad you posted in.

One of the moms here tells us that a mental illness is not an excuse. It is the diagnoses of a set of symptoms. If your child has been diagnosed in this way, then these are the challenges he will need to incorporate into his understanding of who he is in order to manage his life.

You cannot manage his life, or his illness, for him.

There is some question about chemical imbalance related to illicit drug use and the diagnosis of bipolar, in particular. There is no conclusive evidence as to which came first. Did the child use in an effort to self medicate, or have the illicit substances the child tried out of curiosity affected the chemical balance of the brain? If the addiction can be addressed, will the symptoms created by the chemically imbalanced brain disappear?

Those are some of the questions being researched, now.

Back when these things began happening to my kids, everyone was still blaming everything from schizophrenia to homosexuality on rotten mothering.

At least, we have moved beyond that.

What we think we know now is that there is a genetic susceptibility to addiction. In my solitary opinion, there is a connection to creativity, too.

But that's just me thinking that.


We can help and support you as you come through it, each in our own way.

For us, the bottom value has been: Can I take this action regarding my child's situation and meet my own eyes in the mirror.

It got to that point, for us, for husband and I.

It was devastatingly hard to go through it.

We (husband and I) have learned that, though it seems the kids are not listening, they are. You and husband represent safety and wisdom to your child, whether he seems to be listening or not. Our site administrator posted an excellent video for us on the mechanism of addiction. I will reference it for you:

Anyway, hang onto that what I posted about the kids seeing the parent as sources of safety and wisdom. What you say, how you think and see your son, how you come to see yourselves as parents and as persons ~ every belief system you have about yourselves will be challenged as you come through this, and as you bring your son through it.

I have tried to find a place of affection for my kids. In spite of the shame of it, or the guilt of it ~ in the face of whatever shenanigans extended family are getting into around what is happening to my child ~ that I have been able to find a place of affection ~ not the desperate love of a mother for her endangered child, but of steady affection for, my addicted, rebellious child ~ that has given me a place to stand and helped me know how to respond to him.

Others of us will be along, soon. Each of us will have a particular piece that will resonate for you. Together, we will all get ourselves and one another through it.



Well-Known Member
I have a mood disorder which incapacitated me without my medications. I'm normal on them although it tool a decade to find a good medication fit. I was sick too but never gave up on helping myself.
I had no family support. To this day surviving family call me crazy. I don't care.
It is up to your son, unless he is psychotic and does not realize he is I'll, to comply with treatment and if one thing doesn't work he needs to keep trying or nothing will help him.
If he is truly bipolar, he needs medications period. If he won't try to.gind the medications that will stabilize him you can't do anything. Legally nobody can force him to take medication. I disagree with this law, but it is what it is.
Do what is best for the rest of you and hope your son will choose to get well
Hugs. I'm so angry at our mental health system. A good resource for info and advice is your codes national alliance for the mentally ill. I am in training there to learn how to help peers who are also mentally ill and not yet stable. Great organization.