Need help now?

Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Discussion forum for parents in Australia

Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Reply
Active scribe
Daisy18

Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Hi,

My son has been suffering from depression (including suicidal thoughts) for over 3 months now. Most days he struggles to get out of bed, and lays under the doona until midday. I try to coax him out, gently encourage some exercise, or some sort of routine.

He doesn't want to talk to us, or be around us at all. He is just so sad it's awful. We used to have such a great relationship. But I do understand that teens need space.

When he is awake if he's not lying in bed staring at the wall he is scrolling on his phone or on his computer gaming I believe he has an addiction to screens and gaming.

He has also said he doesn't want us to talk to anyone about his condition so both my husband and I feel very alone and isolated with all of this as we are unable to talk to family and friends for support.

He is missing so much of year 11, I'm worried about the repercussions of this for year 12 next year. This surely will only be compounding his stress and depression.

He is seeing a psychologist, but can only get in around once a month. He has been on antidepressants for 1 month but I'm not sure they are helping.

His GP has referred him to a psychiatrist, but the earliest appointment is over 5 months away.

I know it's different for everyone, but I really need to see some light at the end of this dark tunnel we are all in. Can anyone share how long it took to see an improvement in their teenager please?

We are really struggling here.

Thanks.
Mod
Natalie-RO

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Message contains a hyperlink

Hey @Daisy18 

I am sorry to hear that you, and your family have been experiencing such a difficult time lately and I am really glad that you have found our forums and have been able to reach out for some support.

I can hear how concerned and worried you are for you son, and how difficult this has been for both you and your husband. It is clear how much your son means to you, and it sounds like you have been doing a great job at rallying up as much support available to help him through this. Even by posting on here shows just how hard you are trying. Your son is extremely lucky to have parents who love and care for him as much as you do, and who are trying so hard to help him through this.

It is understandable how concerned and worried you must be for him, and how upsetting and hard it must be to see him experiencing this. It is really good to hear that he has been seeing a psychologist, GP and will be seeing a psychiatrist. It also sounds like you have been trying to encourage him to have some kind of routine by exercising.

I know you mentioned that he doesn't want anyone else to know about this so you and your husband are feeling very alone and isolated as you are unable to ask for some support. It sounds like a very challenging situation to be in. In saying that, this is a lot to be dealing with and it is just as important that you and your husband are also receiving all the support available to you to help you manage  this. I was wondering if you were, or have considered speaking to a professional yourself so that you are also receiving some support? It's important that you are prioritising your own mental health and wellbeing as well.

I can hear that you are also concerned about him missing school, and are worried about the repercussions this may have and was wondering if you have considered speaking to the school about this, and if they were able to provide you and him with any additional support whilst he is at school?

I wanted to share some resources and information we have about depression and suicide which you may find helpful to have a look through. It has some information as well as a list of things you can try.

I was also wondering whether your son has a safety plan in place, or if this is something you would consider creating with him, or with support from his GP or psychologist? We have some information here about creating a safety plan here if you wanted to learn more about this.

I can hear how much you are all trying to navigate through this and am mindful of the impact this is having on you. I was wondering if you have any positive coping strategies, or anything that helps you prioritise your on wellbeing?

Also we have sent you an email to check in, can you please keep an eye out for that?

 

Take care and we hope to hear back from you soon.

Remember that we are all here and you don't have to go through this alone.

 

Active scribe
Daisy18

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Hi Natalie,

Thanks for your reply, and email. I really appreciate your response, and the resources you have shared.

He is having another really terrible day. I think it’s getting worse.

We have had some good support from school. I think we need another meeting though, to set up some “what now” ideas. Not sure if he should just leave school for the year and start again next year. Maybe that would ease some pressure.

I am getting help through a psychologist, it’s just too much to bear alone. I’m doing the basics to keep strong – eating well, exercising, trying to get enough sleep, but I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed at the moment. I just want to see a glimmer of hope that this is improving. I’ll be talking to my sons GP today, so hopefully that is helpful.

Thanks, Daisy.

Mod
Shiv-RO

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Hi @Daisy18 

 

I just want to let you know that from my perspective you are doing an amazing job supporting your son while respecting his boundaries. Even if he is not ready to talk right now, you continuing to reach out lets him know you will be there when he is ready. It is encouraging that the school has been supportive. Your openness to explore all the options to relieve your son of additional pressure so he can prioritize his mental health, for now, shows how hard you are working to be a supportive parent and to advocate for your sons’ best interests.

 

I am glad to hear you have your own supports and coping strategies in place. I hear that you are overwhelmed right now which is completely understandable, I know from experience that watching our child in pain feels unbearable. I encourage you to be kind to yourself as you continue to navigate this difficult time.

 

I wonder if it would be helpful for you to prep for the GP appointment by taking down some notes. For example, you might like to ask how long you can expect to wait before seeing improvement in your son’s mood in response to the medication or what you can do to support your son, from your GPs perspective, while waiting to see the psychiatrist. You may also like to start noting things down now in preparation for your son’s psychiatry appointment.

 

Take care and please continue to reach out to us for support during this challenging time.

Active scribe
Daisy18

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Thanks for your response Shiv-Ro.

Nothing has changed here. In fact, he is talking to us less. And no school. It's horrible, he basically sleeps, then scrolls / games all day and into the night. Anything I suggest is ignored. It's like he is in pain to be around us Smiley Sad

I think this is going to take a very long time to heal this. He will have to be the one to want to start helping himself - I think he thinks it will just go away of it's own accord, without effort or change. Feeling super helpless.

I'm trying to get an earlier psychiatrist appointment than the 5 months away.

Mod
Pho-RO

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Hi @Daisy18 

I just wanted to commend you as well, echoing what others have said about the incredible effort you are making in order to provide your son with as many opportunities as possible for him to improve. I can imagine that seeing him decline further is very disparaging for you. I think you're right in thinking that he himself has to be the one to want things to change, and believe that it's possible. It can be very painful to feel helpless in the meantime, so it's really great to hear that you are taking steps towards supporting yourself along the way. Maybe in time, he might witness you seeing improvements in your own life from therapy, and it could give him hope for his own therapeutic process and recovery. 

 

I hope that you're able to get a sooner appointment with the psych. You're doing an incredible job at providing your son with as many opportunities as possible, many doors he can choose from to find what support will work best for him. Choice and agency can go a long way with mental health, and he will walk through the right door when he's ready. We'll be here beside you as long as you need us Heart

Parent/Carer Community Champion
Birdwings

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Message contains a hyperlink

Hi @Daisy18,

Sorry to hear about what's going on with your son. I have been in a similar boat on and off with my own kids and am not really sure what their current status is but they seem to be on the okay side of things atm. I am Mum to a 19 year old son and 17 year old daughter. I have some serious health issues which put our family under hellish stress at times, but it also means I've had extensive occupational therapy and advice on starting over from scratch from where I've been lying flat in the quagmire and physically and emotionally been unable to lift much more than my nose off the ground. At this point, finding your first step is really difficult even if you're busting with hope, enthusiasm or pure desperation because that first step is so small it's barely an incline. 

Our son fell into a bit of a heap a few years ago and sounds very similar to your son, except he was involved with Scouts and his youth group and had really good support there. I thought I'd share the story of him getting his Ls and he's now almost got his hours up to go for his Ps. 

I took him for his first Ls test and failed and blew up in spectacular fashion and it was horrible both to see him so upset and to have to deal with the fallout. He turned his back on getting his Ls and it was a closed door. However, his mates at youth kept onto him as peers can often seem to do in a way that parents can't and ultimately movement came when his youth leader offered him a tub of Baskin Robbins ice cream if he booked himself in for the L test by the end of the next day. He was like a young man possessed. Unfortunately, this wasn't long after lockdown and there was a massive backlog and he couldn't get a booking locally for a few months and so we ended up driving him 1.5 hours away to do the test. My husband took time off work and the three of us went up there and he thank goodness passed. However, it was few months before we actually managed to get him to drive our car. I spoke with the OT who had also been his OT as he is on the NDIS and he said some people are anxious just putting the key in the ignition and starting the car. I'm an anxious driver but that's never been a problem. So when he asked me for $20.00, I said I'd give it to him if he sat in the car and turned the engine on. Off he went. He went driving in carparks with the youth leaders and then out with my husband first. He has come such a long way. A few months ago, he asked me to drive somewhere, I initially said no also because I hadn't driven there myself in over 10 years and suggested he went with his Dad. However, we drove over and that went well and so I agreed. However, I said we'd go late at night since a friend had suggested that's a good time to handle it for the first time when there isn't much traffic around. He went really well.  

While the driving is going well, he has fallen in a hole with getting paid employment although he volunteers at church and I am waiting, hoping maybe trying to nudge him ever so subtly to apply for a paid job. 

I should also mention that he's been a lot more chatty with us over the last couple of years. 

My daughter is also 17. She's in Year 12. She's missed a lot of school due to some medical issues but she's wanting a career in dance. She was going to do her HSC and started the year with enough subjects to get an ATAR. However, subject by subject she derailed and just before the trials she dropped her ATAR subjects. We come from a very academic family so this wasn't easy for us to process. However, its clear she is who she is and she'd missed so much school and was so anxious that even I realised it wasn't worth the risk to her mental health. I have done Lifeline's suicide intervention course, ASIST, and I was becoming concerned. It just became very clear that for her to do the conventional thing and have her HSC was barking up the wrong tree and the seemingly precarious path of becoming a dancer was ironically a more sensible route for her. BTW I should mention that she is academically bright and was in the OC class in primary school. Something seriously derailed and the extensive covid lockdowns and her health issues were too much. 

BTW like your son, our daughter has refused to see a psychologist and would rather go to the dentist. I've got her along a couple of times and she goes silent, curls up in a ball and it's painful. It's also expensive. I've ended up being her help and like yourself, I've spoken to professionals to find out what to do and I have a few close friends I turn to as well. 

My daughter tends to withdraw when things aren't going well. I'm an extrovert but she's an introvert especially when she's stressed. We end up talking to her closed door or via text or a grunt if we're lucky. However, I got into this thing of sending her funny photos mainly of fashion, our dogs etc weird things I found on Salvos online and she would respond most of the time. The trick is finding that spark, the makings of a spark even to get things started. 

My OT put me onto a fantastic book which has really helped me....James Clear: Atomic Habits. He explains really well how really small but continuous small steps accumulate and make a difference. It's been life changing for me because there have been so many things I've wanted to do, agreed to do and then nothing happens and I've never understood why. He recommends attaching a new habit to an existing habit and that helps trigger my memory and he also recommends setting a time and place for an action. It really works. 

The other thing I wanted to mention, is that while my daughter hasn't been real communicative with me lately, I've been exchanging texts with a young woman from church who is going through a tough times and she's been really open with me which is lovely and I am sort of like an aunty but I call her my friend. After all, I have some elderly friends and so age isn't a barrier. I did tell her that if I had concerns I'd be in touch with Mum and dad and I have had to do that as she went off her meds. I wanted to mention that. I'm not sure what the recommendations are for teens taking anti-depressants and whether they are in charge of their own medication or whether parents are supervising it but it raised questions for me about them taking too many pills at once or going off it and giving the impression they're fine and the meds are working when they're actually in a bad way. 

I guess my question would be for you to think about what helps your son feel a bit better...listening to music, going for a walk, getting some sun/air, Has anything helped him in the past? All of us here seem to find walking helps. A friend told me that scents help him calm like a scented candle, or deodorant. Another friend used to stand in the water down at the beach. She was fighting cancer and going through a divorce so she certainly had a lot going on and that helped her. You could try the above as well. 

The challenge is to give him and I guess yourself a glimmer of hope. Something going well for him beyond his electronics. The smallest step which can accumulate into a meaningful transition. 

I hope this helps. 

Best wishes,

Birdwings

Scribe
Chill50

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Hi daisy18, 

first time poster and new to the forums here, I came to the forums to see if I could find any information for myself and your story is so glaringly similar I felt like I had to reach out. Firstly, I can see you are doing everything you can to help your son and it does sound like your son is suffering from depression. My story is similar, and I share this with you so you do not feel like you are alone in this struggle. My son is 15 and everything you described was the same for us. I don’t say this to cause you extra anguish or fear but it reached a head for us 3 weeks ago with an attempt at suicide which thankfully he survived. I know he was struggling but not to this extent. Following the attempt was when the support really started which sadly is a massive failing in our health system. He voluntarily spent some time in a mental health ward, linked in with a psychiatric team and we have a psychiatric care team provided through the public CYMHS team in our region. He did have time with a psychologist and private psychiatrist prior to the attempt, but I completely understand your pain and frustration at not being able to secure one. It is very very hard to get into a private psychiatric. I received referral after referral, my gp was hopeless in being able to help with a psychiatrist who had availability so I took it on myself and contacted over 20 adolescent psychiatrists and hit brick wall after brick wall until I found one. My advice is to stick with this, send out emails after email and get him into a psychiatrist as soon as you can. My experience was that a psychologist was not enough and cannot prescribe medication which can help. Mu son also prefers a psychiatric over a psychologist as he says they ask the ‘right questions’. Just like you, my son will not talk much with myself and my husband. A psychiatrist can help with a range of treatment options, including antidepressants and medication to help with his sleeping. It sounds like the antidepressants may need reviewed, different dosage or type. 

I wouldn’t worry too much about the addiction to his phone and gaming, yes this looks problematic but it is his escape and way of coping. He will struggle to have motivation to do anything else and like you, we find coercing him to do something else is very difficult. My son was the same and has recently taken to vaping as a way of coping which is heartbreaking for me but in the scheme of things, minor. We are aiming to do one thing a day, whether it is a walk, watching a show or a trip to the shops (we’re working our way through the us office!) His schoolwork is likely to suffer if he is clinically depressed. He will be forgetful, unable to concentrate etc. having a conversation with the school and making this less stressful for him might be a start, for example, can homework and study at home be something for him to not do. Engaging with the school is important as I found there was a lot of pressure for my son from school , he is at a smaller private school and with the support of his psych team we are prioritising friendships and social connections over academic progress for now.

You are not alone, your struggle is real and I feel you. I am hopeful there is light at the end of the tunnel, I am taking it day by day but with the right supports in place, he can recover. Take care and please reach out if things get too much. I understand it’s very difficult to talk to friends and family about this but you will likely be surprised by the number of parents with teens who are experiencing similar problems. 

Mod
Stormy-RO

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Message contains a hyperlink

Hi @Chill50 

I just wanted to thank you for sharing what you have in support on the forums. What you've described about your family and son's experiences sounds overwhelming and incredibly difficult. I can see your compassion not only for other parents here but also for your son, and how you've done everything that you can to help him. It's reassuring to know that he has been able to gain access to help through your efforts. Contacting over 20 adolescent psychiatrists is a huge endeavour and I'm glad to hear that he feels like it's helping him.

What also stands out to me is how you are meeting him where he is with his motivation, friendships and academic expectations. This really shows your empathy and dedication to his wellbeing. I imagine that doing one thing a day is bringing some positivity into both of your lives and making you feel connected.

I recognise that your son has recently started vaping which is heartbreaking for you. It's hard to see your son turn to coping mechanisms that you know aren't the best. If you're interested, we have an article here about how to talk to your teen about vaping. This may be helpful when you are both in a good place to have that conversation.

Finally, I wanted to check in about what you've been doing to look after yourself. How are you managing through this difficult time? Have you been able to talk to anyone about what you're going through?

Thank you again for reaching out to us and the community, and looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Active scribe
Daisy18

Re: Depressed 17 year old son 😢

Hello @Chill50 

Thanks so much for your message. You are going through so much too. It's just awful. I hate so much the feeling of helplessness in all of this, I just wish I could take it all away, or even take it on, on my sons behalf. 

I agree with your thoughts on not to give too much energy to the gaming yet, it is one of the things that make him happy. 

I got into a psychiatrist on a cancellation (yay!) and he has swapped his meds over, so we are now waiting to see if these help, or just make him feel nauseous.

He sees his psychologist tomorrow, so hopefully he gets some peace from that too. 

It seriously feels like we are in for a marathon of an uphill struggle with winning over this depression. I know that he won't be like this forever, I just hope he can see that too. 

I really hope things improve your end. xxx