Institutionalised 13 yo son still threatening suicide


New Member
Hi to all, I am hopeful someone can help us. My husband passed away 4 weeks ago in a motorbike accident. He was a loving, supportive step father to my 2 children. I have a 13 year old son and 8 year old daughter.

All my grief aside, my 13 year old son has gone off the edge of reality. He is currently institutionalised at a mental health facility. He has been there 1 week and has 2 more weeks to get much needed help.

Some history : my son was born via emergency C as the cord was around his neck. I left his father when he was 5 months old as I discovered his father was abusing drugs and did not want my son to grow up in that environment. I stayed a single mom for 5 years. My son had relatively normal milestone progression until I found him having seizures at age 3. He was promptly taken to 3 different neurologists where he was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. He has an undeveloped, damaged frontal left lobe which contributes to behaviour disorder. He was placed on Epilim to control the seizures. He had many learning difficulties and at the age of 7 was additionally diagnosed with ADD and Sensory Processing Disorder. He received Occupational Therapist (OT) and was accepted into a remedial learning school. He was placed on Concerta. He changed remedial schools 4 times as I was told his behaviour was too disruptive for the other children. The current remedial school he attends has been an amazing support system for him and I was sure he found his happy place. Until 4 weeks ago.

My husband was a rock and strong support system for us. He was the stability we needed and the future we had prayed for. He was strict but loving and the children loved him dearly.

After the funeral he went on holiday with his grandfather and cousins for 10 days to allow me time to grieve and begin the more intricate, legal aspects if his passing. 7 days into the holiday my son and daughter had an argument and my son searched out his medication and took all the pills that were there. Luckily his older cousin came across him and realising what he did she told Granddad. He was taken to hospital, had his stomach pumped, given charcoal and went to ICU. He spent 4 days in hospital. When he was released they came right back and I tried to talk to him about what happened.

He blames himself for having bad thoughts about his stepdad the day before and thinks that's why he died. I explained it was not his fault, that he was not driving the car that pulled out in front of his stepdad and it was an accident and he has no reason to blame himself. Once again, he seemed ok so he went back to school.

From the day he went back to school the real trouble began. He was constantly threatening to kill himself. Found a piece of glass and cut his arm. Despite my attempts to reach out to him he continued with these actions. The school called in a child psychiatrist who after 2 visits said he needed more intense help.

He was booked into the mental health clinic and has continued his threats. He has started wetting the bed at the clinic, messed #2 in his boxers then hid them under his bed, slamming his head and body against the walls. All when he can't get his own way.

Hence my belief that all of this behaviour is more about manipulation than actual suicidal. Although I am not willing to risk his life over this belief. I know he has severe developmental problems and I am trying to address these as swiftly as possible. I also discovered that Epilim and Concerta can enhance depression, this is something I only discovered now. I cannot have him assessed for new medication options until we have addressed his current suicidal state.

My question is this, the doctors at the clinic asked me to come in at 10 am as they do not know what to do for him. I truly want to confront my son and tell him there will be consequences for his every action, good and bad. However in my own state of grief I don't know that I am being rational.

He is allowed a Cell phone during prescribed times at the clinic. However when they try to take it away he threatens to hurt himself. He us accusing the doctors, nurses and other children of stealing his stuff but they are not.

I want to tell him that I will personally come in and take away his phone if he continues with these threats. And if he continues to refuse to go to therapy I will take away his other privileges. And if he still continues after that I will stop visiting. And if he still carries on I will have him permanently institutionalised to save him from danger.

Tough love? Too much? Am I too emotionally unstable for this or does this sound fair? I don't know about countering a threat with a threat but I don't know what else to do.

Thanks Laura


Well-Known Member
I am very sorry for your loss, and on top of it this crisis with your son.

I do not have a lot of time now but I will check back with you tomorrow morning.
He blames himself for having bad thoughts about his stepdad the day before and thinks that's why he died.
Actually this is normal. Children lack the emotional maturity to understand and to tolerate horrible and sudden loss. The way they often do so so is to think they caused it. This is the only way that they can accept that out of the blue a disaster such as this can happen to them. An out of control world where nothing makes sense, is too much for a child to tolerate. Blaming themselves makes sense of it, gives them the illusion they have some control.
Hence my belief that all of this behaviour is more about manipulation than actual suicidal.
I do not see it as manipulation. I see it as a way to express his horrible pain, which he cannot endure and cannot process in a way to make sense of it.

Once when I was a teen, I banged my head aginst the wall over and over again. My mother who herself was difficult would not permit me to do something I wanted to do, for no good reason. She would not listen to reason, and reacted punitively.

You would think this was a manipulation. It was not. I remember to this day what I felt: extraordinary frustration, the sense that language did not work to communicate it, the sense that nobody on this planet understood my pain, the sense of utter hopelessness that anybody, ever would understand. This was only about a small thing. Imagine what it feels like to be your son.
I truly want to confront my son and tell him there will be consequences for his every action, good and bad.
I think this is a bad idea. First, to escalate your threats: phone,visits, freedom, to threaten to take away his life itself. It would only intensify the feelings he has, and increase his desperation and the danger.

Let me underscore. This is not a manipulation. It is an expression of pain. Is there nobody on that staff that sees it as such? This is a child who has had more than his share of troubles and challenges who feels he lost everything.

He is crying for help. However deep and horrible his pain please try hard not to crush him more. I see tough love as the wrong thing here. Do not underestimate how important you are to him now. He needs you more than he ever has before. He will not tell you. Trust me. His need for you is enormous. You, too, need him. Do not take this support away. You need each other now.

He is not in control of himself. He is utterly out of his element, out of his depth.You are too. He does not need you to oppose him. He needs to feel you with him. You need him too.

He is a suffering child. You are his suffering Mom.
I don't know about countering a threat with a threat but I don't know what else to do.
As I said, countering a threat with a threat will explode the situation, in my view. He might feel without hope. He might feel he is losing you, his mother, as well.

You mention the key issue here: You are over your head. You cannot bear what you already have on your plate. How could you stand more? Nobody could.

You are being asked by the hospital to take responsibility to solve a treatment issue that is their''s to handle. They are the professionals. You are not responsible to come up with a solution to treat your own child, especially in your condition. They are. Where he is now, is most likely the safest place for him. Do what ever you can to fight them if they try to discharge him while you believe he is still so vulnerable. If they do not know how to treat him tell them to read a book on grief in children. You cannot be made responsible to intervene in the treatment of your hospitalized child.

What I would do is to tell the truth to your son: The only truth that you know, I think, is that you love him. That you do not understand either why his father was taken so soon when you all needed and love him so. Tell your boy that you will all find a way together to get through this. Hug him. Kiss him. Cry with him. If you can do this, go every day with the same thing.

Hope for nothing. Expect nothing. Tell him you love them. Kiss and hug him if he lets you. Son, I do not know why this happened. What I know is that together we will get through this. I love you. Over and over again. Cry together. Hold each other.

If he does not cry or let you hold him, do not worry. He will in time.

That is what I would do, until he can do more. Grieve with your boy. He loves you. It will help you, too, I think.

Keep posting. I will check back tomorrow. I wrote more than I thought I would. Sorry.

You take care of yourself. I wish I could say something to give you some comfort. All I can say, is that we will be with you here, for anything and as long as it takes.

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New Member
Thank you for your honest replies Copa. I'll keep my reactions and interactions with my son easy and loving. I'll see what the doctors say today and take it one step at a time from there.


Well-Known Member
I do not see it as manipulation. I see it as a way to express his horrible pain, which he cannot endure and cannot process in a way to make sense of it.
I agree, especially since he is neurologically atypical. Maybe he has a form of autism. I know you don't live in the U.S. If you did he may well have that diagnosis. Banging heads and self-harm happens in certain autistics when t hey are hurt and/or frustrated and it is not manipulation . It is their lowered ability to handle stress and he sure has lots of that going on.

I don't think tough love is the way to go, both because of his young age a nd because he has a really solid reason to be so grief-stricken.

I'm so sorry for your loss and hope you all can come out of this able to go on. Sending good vibes, prayers, anything you believe in...good thoughts in your direction. If it were me, and I know wit's NOT me, but I'd get everyone into age appropriate grief counseling/


I think the ladies before me have already given you the same advice I would . I just wanted to add my support and prayers for you all. Stay strong and keep coming back. We care here :)


Well-Known Member
I just want to say how sorry I am for the loss of your wonderful husband.

Your son sounds devastated by the loss and is having a hard time dealing with his pain.

I feel so badly for him. I am praying that he gets the help he needs.


Warrior Mom since 2007
How are you and your son doing? Just thinking of you both and sending hugs.

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