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Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

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Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

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Squivvel

Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

My son has always struggled with his mental health since he was 11 and has been to counselling when he was young and hated it.  He has had suicidal thoughts throughout his life but never planned to go further than that.  He is now living in the city (we live on a farm) but talks to me all the time about his problems.  He recently again said “I want to kill myself” but no matter how I try to approach it (supportively, just listening, offering help) he either gets angry or doesn’t want to seek help.  I am so worried that he will do something and I just don’t know how to support him without getting him help (which he refuses to have)

I know if he could just find some friends or a partner he would feel like he belonged but he is shy and struggles to meet people.  I have encouraged him to find other musos to make a band or go and join something but as I said he struggles.

It just breaks my heart to know that they thoughts he have never leave him and he always feels alone.  How do I help him when he doesn’t want to be helped.  I don’t want to just watch something tragic to happen.  I work in the mental health area and know all there is on offer but I just don’t know how to get through to him.   It upsets me so much that he can’t overcome these feelings when he has so much to offer the world and appears to everyone else to be coping just fine.  He confides everything to me but I just feel like I am breaking not being able to help him.

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Chloe-RO

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

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Hi there @Squivvel ,

Firstly, Welcome to the ReachOut Parents forum!

Thank you for reaching out and sharing what has been happening for you and your son. It must be so difficult to hear and watch your son struggle with suicidal thoughts, yet not be able to help him. 

It sounds like you have a very close relationship with your son in that he confides in you about how he is feeling.

From reading your post, it really sounds like he could do with some support and connection. Do you think he would be willing to start with perhaps Telehealth services whereby you make a warm referral? Or if he agrees, you be on the line at the same time as he is (support person) - even to start off with until he is more comfortable?

While some prefer face-to-face appointments, others have found Telehealth very helpful in that there is a 'barrier' of not being have to be in the same room as the other person. 

Some also find Webchats preferable to talking.

Depending on the age of your son, he may be able to utilise ReachOut's youth services e.g. Peer Chat, Youth Forums ; Headspace 

Otherwise, if he wants to talk through some of these suicidal thoughts, he may want to contact Lifeline (webchat, sms texting, phone) ; Beyond Blue

We hear he is reluctant to reach out. However, with so many multi-modal options, he may find just one that works?

It is probably also important that he feels empowered to make the decision to better himself. It may be just providing him with a few options, say 2, then leaving them with him to decide whether he wants to contact them, ask you to help him contact them, or wait until he's ready.

Sometimes a gentle question, "Do you want things to change?" may be the ultimate question to help him make the first move.

At the same time, we also want to acknowledge everything you are doing to support your son. We hope you have also found ways to be supported.

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Bre-RO

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

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Hey there @Squivvel 

I'd also like to jump in here to thank you for opening up about your sons' mental health. I can see we've shared some suggestions for different methods of support to suggest to your son, and I'm curious to know what you think. Based on what you've shared at present, you are your sons main source of support which can be a heavy burden to carry on your own. Do you have any trusted people in your life to share your concerns with? 

I'm wondering what you think about getting in touch with our free one-on-one support service, so you can discuss this further and hopefully get some ideas for how to help your son while he isn't open to professional support. If you're interested, you can click here to sign up for sessions. 

We're here to listen, so please get in touch whenever you need. 

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Active scribe
Squivvel

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

Thank you so much for your response.  I can think a little clearer today.  I think sometimes I just need to acknowledge the emotional weight it plays on me as a mum.  I really like your suggestion about asking “Do you want things to change”. As he is so resistant to help I think I need to keep the conversation going when the moments are right to remind him of help that might work for him.  He has used the Reach out platform when he was younger and found that quite helpful.  I think talking to others his own age is key but actually getting him to first acknowledge that he wants things to change will be a big first step.  

I was also thinking last night that it may be worth asking him what triggers his feelings and thoughts of suicide as I suspect it is nerves and stress (when I look at his patterns).  It is nearly a knee jerk reaction when he feels he isn’t coping or things are overwhelming.

I have also discovered an app which may appeal to him as it is a little like reach out and allows him to talk to others also struggling but will also help him feel a sense of belonging and connection which I feel he is so desperate for,

Active scribe
Squivvel

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

Thank you so much for your suggestions.  I have responded above with my thoughts but really appreciate all of the help offered and honestly feel less alone now in my feelings and journey.  I am also a Chair for a Community Mental Health Action Team and Deputy Principal at a school.  I have for a long time recommended Reach out for students but I will certainly share this platform for parents needing support too as it has been really good to have a place to reach out for help as a mum.

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Chloe-RO

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

Hi there @Squivvel ,

You definitely are not alone in this. Teenagers at 18 years of age borderline teenagehood and adulthood. It really can be quite scary to go into a world of independence and the 'unknown'. Hence, it may be adding to the stress of it all. 

Sometimes, people cannot even pinpoint the reason for suicidal thoughts to be triggered. At times, it may even be more distressing to think that something must have triggered the thoughts, and if not, then something must be 'wrong'.

Others may be supported through this by likening thoughts to the weather. The weather is allowed to come and go. Sometimes it's sunny, sometimes cloudy, sometimes rainy. If we wait long enough, the weather will change. For is, perhaps it's more about looking at weather (thoughts) through a 'curious' lens. That is, neither judging them to be 'good' or 'bad', but rather, letting them come and go. 

Above all, ultimately it is for your son to decide whether he wants things to change or remain as they are - otherwise, it's like "leading a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." Change can be scary. Change can be hard. Change can be painful - just as growing pains are. Yet without the pain, there is limited/no growth.

At the same time, for yourself, you have the added pressures of being a deputy principal. That in itself can throw many unexpected challenges your way. It is important you remember your own self-care and reachout to relevant support services e.g. Employee Assistance Program.

We look forward to hearing how things go.

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Blake-RO

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

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Hey @Squivvel 

I wanted to chime in after reading your recent posts.

Thank you for sharing this with us, it’s so great to hear that connecting on the forums has been so helpful and that you are feeling less alone. It sounds like it has been a very difficult time for you recently and it is understandable how concerned and worried you must be. I can hear how much your son means to you and how hard you have been trying to help and support him through this – he is very lucky to have you!

We were wondering whether you have been able to speak to anyone else about what’s been going on and if you were receiving any support from either a friend, family member, GP or mental health professional. It’s important to remember that your wellbeing is just as important, and you deserve all the support available to you.

I was also curious about whether your son has a safety plan as I know that you mentioned that you have been thinking about asking him about possible triggers which can be part of a safety plan. Identifying possible early warning signs and triggers can be really important in knowing when to seek support and when to use the safety plan. We have this article that I wanted to share with you, it has some information around safety planning and explains how to create a safety plan. Do you think this would be helpful?

Remember that we are all here to listen and support you. 

Active scribe
Squivvel

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

Thanks for reaching out.  I am very lucky to have some very supportive friends and I am getting better at reaching out and actually leaning on them. I am very aware of safety plans and how to develop one given the work I do in the the mental health and wellbeing space but knowing it and getting my son to engage in the process are two different things.  Having said that I have created a list for myself to refer to next time he is feeling this way so that I can keep chipping away with him. I have come to realise that he needs to be able to regulate his emotions as he really dips when he is under stress or has bad news.  Mindfulness would be very helpful to help him separate his thoughts and emotions but as a teenage male he is very resistant to that type of strategy.  I am myself working through an app called Headgear which he might be interested in but it is a slow process.  I guess this platform has been really nice to feel that I have someone where to go for emotional support so I really thank everyone for all of their supportive comments and encouragement.  It is an up and down process but just gets emotionally exhausting occasionally.

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Chloe-RO

Re: Trying to help my 18 yr old son with suicidal thoughts who doesn’t want help

Good on you for being ready to chip away at it @Squivvel . It may take some time, but fingers crossed, your son will come around to it and realise it is okay to reach out for help.

We look forward to hearing how things go. Remember to also focus on your own mental health. Have you tried the Smiling Mind app? I do believe it is evidence-based and many find it quite helpful.