I Need help...My 21 Year Old Won't Help Us Help Himself.

Updated on January 16, 2013
S.C. asks from Rego Park, NY
17 answers

My son is depressed and won't allow us to help him get help. He has closed himself off and sleeps all day, only to wake up to go to a part time job which he hates. He has always had sleeping problems, sleep all day and be awake all night....but now it's even worse...He is at the age that we can't force him to do anything and he is good at enforcing that fact.

Background info: He finished HS by the skin on his teeth, took a semester off before starting college (did nothing with that time), did 2 semesters of college and only has maybe 6 credits to his name. His dad and I gave him the choice, do well in school or go to work full time and start paying rent and contributing to the household. He convinced us that he wanted to do school and would do better, but he again failed all subjects and soon entered into a depression. Which is where he is now. This is his 3rd bout with depression... the other 2 times he was young enough where we still had say so in his life and forced him to take anti depressants and insisted he go to counseling, which he hated and it didn't go any further than perhaps 6 sessions.

This depression is complete with isolating himself from everyone and pushing his girlfriend away with hateful and spiteful comments...as well as doing things that lead me to believe that he is contemplating suicide....We have tried to have conversations with him but all we get is the back of his head. We have tried scheduling a time when he can give us his attention so we can talk, but other than ignore us by sleeping, when he does get up, he takes a shower and goes to work knowing we are waiting for him to come down to talk about his current emotional state. He avoids us at all cost and feels that we are ambushing him to talk. He knows we want to talk to him about counseling and anti depressants, but he doesn't want us to "bother" him. What worries me is the suicidal tendancy he fancies. I am very well aware that my son can easily end his life, but other than his canceling his facebook account (which he truly lived on) and pushing his girlfriend away which I know for a fact he loves very much....how do I know if that is where he is going in thought... how can I help him if he doesn't let us help him....What should I do? I am so stressed about this... I check in on him every 2 hours to see the back of his head in bed. I make him answer me to make sure he is alive but my husband and I can't live like this, not knowing if he is dead or alive and not knowing how to help him.

The trigger to this depression are several: He flunked school :::again::: His older brother has considered joining the Coast Guard Reserves (and we insisted that he go, not to join but to listen in on what were the benefits of joining) He is so set against joining the military and was extremely angry that we insist he go with his brother. He went, but then the depression came with more intensity.

any suggestions?

1 mom found this helpful

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So What Happened?

First let me say thank you to all who responded to my plea for help...Everyone who responded had very good points in their advise

For the longest time, I believed my son suffers with Aspergers syndrome... He has problems communicating with everyone except his brother... How he manages to have relationships with girlfriends is beyond me... But he has always seem to be socially awkward in almost all situations unless it is a group of ppl who share his interest... When his dad and I try to talk to him, he avoids eye contact and barely answers any questions, or he just grunts (for lack of a better descriptive word)... He was always a quiet child and preferred to be alone if not with his brother (who is 7 years older than him). Over the years, I would be so frustrated at how lazy he could be...He would do the bare minimum of what was expected of him, never ever taking the initiative to do more...That is until about a year ago...I noticed that when I gave him explicit directions/instructions on how to do something I wanted done, it got done completely... Son, clean up your room would be the old way. The new way, Son, separate your dirty laundry and take them to the basement and wash them before 2 pm. Wipe down all surfaces with a rag to rid the dust that has accumlated, and vaccum the room after all clothes have been picked up..This seems childish but it works...

I think my Dx of Aspergers is accurate...We got him to agree to see a past psychiatrist for meds and I am in the process of finding and calling mental health center that will work with him with a group of mental health providers... i.e. Psychiatrist, psychologist and family counseling... He is not at all interested in the latter two, but I think with some prodding we might just have a chance to get him a well rounded group of doctors to help him. Today I will call the psychiatrist to schedule an appt and we will go from there. I am not going to give up on my son and he needs to know that.

Featured Answers



answers from New York on

You need a psychiatrist & doctor to evaluate him and give you some sort of idea as to where to begin.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

this sounds serious.
find out what you need to do to get him admitted to a psychiatric facility that can give him help.
good luck, mama!

2 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Dallas on

It's time to call a suicide hot line. They have more information and know your local resources.

18 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I don't know what to advise you to do, but I do want to advise you not to try to get him in the military. The military is not for people with psychiatric problems. There is no "give" and the things that they do can make someone with suicidal thoughts just snap.

Please go talk to a counselor yourselves about how to deal with your son. I'm so sorry that all of you are going through this.


17 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If you feel he is a danger to himself, please call the authorities right away.
Good luck.

(And please don't put too much stock in any opinions expressed by non experts. If you son is suicidal, my non-expert common sense tells me this isn't about nutrition!)

ETA: I'm not trying to be snarky, but if this man is SUICIDAL (maybe some missed that part?), the time for action, not food elimination, is now, not when it's too late.
I'm sure food can play a role in moods and behavior, but we don't know this man, and if he is a danger to himself or others, I think swift action might be the safer course. He won't even talk to his parents, I doubt if he will midify his diet or talk to a nutritionist.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Please, please, if you can, (oh please I hope you have insurance or find out how to do this) call and get him admitted to a hospital. He will hate you. He will fight scream kick holler, but HE WILL BE ALIVE.
This is almost our story and my son is now doing very well. But it took two hospital stays (sorry) and medication ( oh sorry again) but get him there. Or to something. If you think 'suicidal' then take this seriously. If not he can catch up with more therapists later to complain about his mother. Contact NAMI Look it up. I am forever grateful to someone who shoved me out the door and made me do this myself. They think the world is persecuting them and it is oftentimes a chemical imbalance. Don't worry about labels. It isn't your fault. Keep trying.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

First, I'm sorry you are going through this. Am I correct in assuming that when you say the depression seems more intense, that he's become more withdrawn than he was after the CGR visit?

I strongly agree with Dawn regarding the military and mental health. My dad is former Coast Guard and had horror stories regarding boot camp. I went to the 'kinder, gentler' boot camp with some problems of my own and believe me, this is not the place to send someone who is on the edge. I had a boot camp buddy (who, unbeknownst to her when she came into boot camp, was pregnant) who got sent to the medical holding unit where they kept the young women who are having a rough time. It's bad. 24/7 watch on some of them, which meant zero privacy, even in the bathroom. The military tends to think that they can just rip people down and build them back up... this does work somewhat for people who are already in pretty good shape emotionally and up for it, but consider how badly off our returning Middle Eastern vets are, and what they are dealing with, with so little support from the military.

(Plus, the threat to get a person to 'get it together' is that you'll carry a psych discharge around for the rest of your life. Bad bad bad situation.)

Because he is so against counseling for himself, I would suggest that you and your husband talk to a counselor yourselves. Find out what your options are, from a professional, going forward. Certainly, if you think he can/will procure a weapon, then make the hard phone calls. I know you are scared and worried for him, and you are a good parent to be so concerned. I don't think this forum can likely give you enough information that would truly be tailored to your tough situation. A counselor would have had some familiarity with which resources are available and what level of intervention is appropriate, given your son's age, life situation and depression.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If he was in counseling prior, what about calling an old counselor or your doctor and asking about next steps?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

This is not enough information and the wonderful mamas on this website can only give you advice based on what they have read..........I was your son in my 20s..............lazy, depressed, no motivation..........I grew up in Manhattan and with an over-bearing father and mother..........they meant well and loved me but did not give me too much freedom.........But like I said....that is MY story with a whole background that is different......you should speak to a therapist and offer your WHOLE FAMILY STORY.......in this effect the therapist can give you custom advice based on the parents parenting, yours and your husband's background and your environment.........don't give up on him......When I turned about 26 or 27 I looked around and realized that my parents were right and I was wasting my damm life.........one thing you should advise (depending on a therapist) is the explanation that suicide and drugs are for cowards.....there is nothing more courageous than living and dealing with life's problems head-on! OH and I agree with **One and Done** she is absolutely right!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

This is more than depression. This sounds like the first symtoms of schizophrenia. If I am correct it will only get worse from now on. Even though he is an adult you can get him commited for a psych eval. Contact Social Services or Health and Human Services at your county office. Ask what steps you need to take to have someone commited. Most states require that 3 people some states all blood relatives or spouse, some states friends can sign paper work. You already have 2 you and his dad. Would his brother sign the paper work?

Get moving and get him help.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Sorry to say this but you need to stop enabling him and give him a firm date that he has to be out of the house or get into therapy. You will need to put it into writing and present it to him. Sadly at 21 there isn't much you can do, but if he is not going to help himself you will need to start doing the tough love and being firm. I know it is hard (we had to do it with my brother) but you need to do it. He is not going to get his life together until he is made to.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd suggest investigating nearby inpatient hospitals. They will keep him 72 hours for observation if you sign him in saying he's suicidal, that he said he was going to hurt himself.

I signed my daughter in and the police took her from the ER. He may need to see you are worried about him before he realizes he needs to seek help.

As sad as it is you may have to find a local mental health center that has a support group for parents of kids with mental health issues. Sort of like Alanon is for family of Alcoholics.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

You son does not sound depressed, he sounds overwhelmed. It also doesn't sound like he has direction or the ability to sort that out.

Depression does not have "intensity" as you describe it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

ETA: Looks like I needed to supply a few links as proof to those who are unenlightened to the fact that NUTRITION MATTERS. Why would God create us to require food? It's not just to satisfy our hunger, it is much deeper and more complicated than that! Put some actual thought in to it people, and open your minds!


Here's one more just for "grins". Many people are so gullible and just believe everything their dictors say, and shovel Rx pills in their mouths without doing any research at all for themselves..."Sheeple".

Stay away from the pills and look in to his diet. Wheat has been shown to cause depression, along with all grains as a matter of fact. Look into the connection. Read about the Paleo diet. Also supplement with Krill oil (a small shrimp), B3 (Niacin), and get him to a holistic doctor. Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I'm so sorry you are going through this.
I would call a suicidal hotline in your phone book (inside cover) just to be
sure and ask questions.
Then I would book an appt w/a therapist through your health care provider to get some advice.
Better to act now, get some professional insight & get the tools you need
to deal with this.
Also, talking w/a professional can rule out any other medical issues.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

What a tough situation. I am very sorry this is happening for you and your family. Depression can be very difficult, not only for the person who has it, but also for those who love them. If you believe there is any chance that he is suicidal, please ask him directly about it. Be upfront and don't mince words. You will not be putting ideas in his head- if he is contemplating it, he may be relieved that you brought it up and he may be willing to start treatment with your encouragement. If he is not thinking aboutsuicide, your asking is not going to trigger these thoughts. Don't harp on him. About treatment but ask him, if he were diabetic would he refuse to see a doctor? Probably not, and depression is an illness, in many ways like any physical ailment. It needs and responds well to treatment in most cases. Reassure him that his life can be different and that you are there to offer support, not tell him what to do. Ask him what course he would like to take and how you can help, if he wants you to.And remember, as hard as it is, he is an adult and is responsible for his own self care as you are for yours. It may help you too to talk with a therapist on your own or with your husband. Hopefully your family will have a positive outcome.



answers from Binghamton on

I think you and your husband should find a good therapist ASAP to get some ideas about possible options. This sounds like a serious and complicated sitation and I think a trained professional will have some productive ideas and help support you through it. I would be wary about making any major changes before talking to someone with experience in this field. It truly sounds like your son's life may be at stake. Keep the faith as best you can and find someone who can help you love your son through this crisis.

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