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Son doesn't want to seek help

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Son doesn't want to seek help

Hubby and I feel like there is no one who can help us help our twenty one year old son. He is lonely, angry and unwilling to seek or accept help. He is underweight, has sleeping problems and rarely emerges from his room. We are trying to get him to increase his driving hours (he has almost enough to be tested); have purchased him a second hand car. We want him to see a GP to get help for his sleeping problem but he refuses to do this. He claims ALL online mental health services “work from a script” and don’t care about callers. His level of skepticism and criticism of any mental health service provider is boundless. Yesterday, he had a meltdown about his weight; loneliness; isolation; inability to sleep and punched a hole in a wall.( not for the first time.) We are so desperate and powerless to help him. We have told him we love him and want him to find happiness but that this needs to come from within. We cannot help feeling that this will end with him taking his own life. I don’t know what anyone can say but writing it down here has kind of lightened the load for a moment.  


Hi Gwinny,

It’s an incredibly difficult thing, to see a loved one suffering and for them to refuse to seek professional help. 

It’s a really challenging situation, and there aren’t straightforward solutions. As a parent no wonder you are feeling distressed and feeling like you aren’t getting help. It may feel that the love and support you offer him isn't getting through to him right now, but just because he isn’t responding to what you say doesn’t mean he does not hear it, that it does not have an impact on him. Sometimes, it can take time for someone to reach a point where they are willing to try seeing a GP or psychologist - by continuing to be there and letting your son know how much you care, it makes it more likely he’ll be willing to let you know when he is ready for this.  

You may already know this, but parents often find that focusing on listening; acknowledging that things are difficult; asking the young person questions about what they want; and avoiding giving advice are the most effective ways for the young person to feel supported and also to feel willing to consider options like professional help. This can be particularly important when someone is experiencing depression - sometimes the more a parent tries to suggest ideas the more the young person will fight against these ideas.

I wanted to draw your attention to this article in case you haven’t see it. It’s about teenagers, but also relevant to young adults.

Gwinny, you mention that you are concerned about your son taking his own life. Is this something you have discussed with him? These thoughts are unfortunately something many people experience, and a lot of people sit with these thoughts alone. For some young people, being asked about these thoughts and letting someone know can be a relief, and can help them get the help they need. If you haven’t already spoken to him directly about whether he is having thoughts of suicide then I would recommend checking in around this (here’s a guide to this conversation:

If your son is ever at immediate risk of harm to himself, then you can contact emergency services so that he can be taken to the local hospital for assessment. Mental health services are generally only about to see someone without their consent when there is an immediate risk, because recovery from depression involves working cooperatively with the person, but it’s important to know that this option is there in an emergency.

It’s common to find that people who are supporting a loved one through mental health difficulties begin to find they feel exhausted and stressed, it’s really important for you and your husband to also look after yourselves and each other. This can be hard when you are worried about someone, but is important because it helps give you energy to continue to support your son; models good self-care behaviour; and also because your wellbeing matters too. If you feel like this is something you are struggling with right now, you may find it helpful to access some professional support for yourselves. 

You and your husband sound like determined and caring parents. I’m glad you posted, and that doing so lightened the load a little bit - there’s a power in sharing with others, in not feeling alone in what you are going through.

Best wishes,


Linda is a psychologist experienced in working with people across the lifespan, including teenagers and their families, in a variety of settings, and is ReachOut's Clinical Lead.



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Re: Son doesn't want to seek help

Hi Gwinny,

I read your contribution and I could relate to much of what you've said there, although across a range of situations I've experienced with different family members. I am here as a parent, not a professional. That said, I've been through a long term acute medical situation and have endured some pretty tough times and have battled with wanting to overcome and triumph over this and wanting to press the delete button, which is a natural response in many ways when life is going ahead in the way we wanted or expected. There's always been someone who has kept me hanging in mum and dad, my husband and kids and I've also been a first responder where I was talking someone close to me around and focusing on something to look forward to  to get them through the moment. 

I've seen psychologists and occupational therapists over the years and don't have a problem with it. However, a number of my close family members have stubbornly resisted and I've had to step in. Or, I've had to accept where they're at and it's not necessarily going to get any better any time soon, which was awful. 

I don't think people often realize what it's like for many members and friends caring for someone going through a life crisis or as that intensifies, mental health issues. I'm a person who takes the Golden Rule to heart and would want to be the good Samaritan who stops to help someone who is injured or struggling, not turn a blind eye. However, you also need the other person to come to the party and when they don't, you're left feeling overwhelmed, helpless and maybe even like bopping them over the head to try to get through. This is where it's good to talk to someone, professionals but also other parents in a similar boat and that's what can help by coming here. However, maybe something in person would be good too. Or, you have friends in a similar boat. 

My brother is chronically underweight at times and has been for years. Mum's always had to bend over backwards to get him to eat. Every time he showed interest in a particular food, mum would buy it in almost plagued proportions and I still remember the fridge being loaded with blueberry Yoplait yogurt 30 years later. 

The one recommendation I would have for you is to get a dog or similar as people connect with animals in ways that they don't connect with other people. You can get dogs trained to work with people with depression or anxiety although many dogs just do this as a matter of course and a wag of the tail is a wonderful healer. We actually have three dogs here. 

The underweight and not eating is a complex area. Our daughter was always underweight around the 10% almost from birth and when she was about 10 she was barely eating and was almost falling over when I picked her up from school. As she'd been on the same trajectory all her life, the thinking was that this was just her. However, I started to question the trajectory itself and we were referred to a gastroenterologist who basically gave me the choice of whether to have an endoscopy or not. I decided to proceed. By this time, I'd decided she had coeliac's disease. However, the tests came back showing that despite fasting, she still had some food in her stomach, which then lead to a diagnosis of gastroparesis or a slow stomach. She was getting stomach pains, acid etc. She was actually quite unwell and at one stage we thought she might need to be hospitalised. She does best on a lower fat diet. Prefers chicken. I have noticed myself that fatty lamb can make me feel sick and my brother never ate fatty meat leaving my mother trimming his meat forever. 

I'm not quite sure how you coax people out of their rooms. We are working on that with our daughter but she's 14 and we're trying to reinstate the family dinner a few nights a week. Our kids also need to be driven places and you'll see that's an ideal way to get a conversation going. Reach out has a communication video which someone could link through to you. I found it very useful. This talks about the benefits of talking in the car where you don't have close eye contact. I am thinking this is so they don't feel interrogated. 

I hope this helps. 

Best wishes,


Star contributor

Re: Son doesn't want to seek help

Hi @Gwinny , 


I hope things are going well with you. I just wanted to let you know that our resident psychologist Linda has also given a response to your question along with one of our wonderful parent community champions @Birdwings .