My 16 yr old is seeing a therapist & is on meds, but still won't go to school, & won't talk abt it

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Casual scribe

My 16 yr old is seeing a therapist & is on meds, but still won't go to school, & won't talk abt it

It's been about 10 weeks since he started on medication. It seemed to help within the 1st month, but then he spiraled and now he seems to be in an even worse funk. He's normally a very bright and diligent student who is well liked by his teachers. Now he feels like he has no friends and there's no point to living. He's lost his resilience in dealing with day to day stuff. We finally informed the school and they will be very supportive. But my son will rarely engage in conversation about it and has missed 7 days of school in the last 2 1/2 months. We are at a loss as to how best help him.

Community Manager

Re: My 16 yr old is seeing a therapist & is on meds, but still won't go to school, & won't t

Hi there @VBMom and welcome to the ReachOut forums.  


Before going into your post, just wanted to make you aware of a couple of things.  First-off, I had to make a small change to your post to make sure that it is in line with our community guidelines - I hope you don't mind.  


Also, just wanted to let you know that it appears that you are not in Australia, where we are based so we can't point you in the direction of any practical resources or services.  In saying that, the pain and issues that you describe are really universal and I am sure that our community can offer you support and inspiration during this really challenging time in your family's life.  You are so welcome to join us and I am super happy that you found these forums!


With all of that out of the way, I just wanted to let you know how moved I was by your description of the situation that you and your son are in at the moment - I can only imagine how tough times are for you right now and you must feel drained by everything that your son is experiencing.  The feeling of 'one step forward and two steps back' is such an emotionally confronting situation to be in as a carer - especially given the levels of empathy and compassion that shine through in your post.  It is only natural that you should feel at a loss right now.


There is a member here @Schooner who has spoken so amazingly and informatively in the past about their experiences with some of the issues you describe (such as starting out on medication) and I hope neither of you mind, but I have tagged them here because I think that their take on this would be really useful.


I was really heartened to read that your son is getting support from a therapist.  Have you talked to them about the recent changes that your son is experiencing?  Do you think that talking contacting them and asking about these issues could help?


Prolific scribe

Re: My 16 yr old is seeing a therapist & is on meds, but still won't go to school, & won't t

Hi @VBMom,


It took 12 months for us to get my 15 year old stable on medication. That's scary but I think it is better you know it up front, and maybe that your son knows it too.


My son (and we did too) thought when he started meds "Right, now we will see improvements". Usually there would be some good signs at the start, so our hopes would be dashed when the side-effects kicked in. Well, the side effects from these meds can be significant, and unpredictable. What works for one person is a disaster for another. We had meds that turned him from depressed to manic; that made him more depressed; that made him so sleepy he fell asleep on the kitchen floor while I was trying to get him ready for school; and that dried up his intestine so much he bled when he went to the toilet (a LOT of blood). Hopefully your experience is better. Some kids get lucky with their first meds. Yes, for our son the effects did not kick in until about a month.


Each time we stopped one and started another took months. You have to wean the kids off, and then start slowly on the next meds. Worse than that was the emotional cost of starting again (on all of us).  My son lost faith in his psychiatrist and in the meds, it was a real effort to keep him taking them. If I were doing it again I'd make it clear to him: this is a trial, it might work, but maybe it is not right for you.


Another thing I'd do is be clear with the medical team about what is going on. They will continue with a medication until it is clear it is not working, so if you think it is not working tell them. They don't see your son everyday and night like you, keep a diary, watch his behaviour, and tell them. People on meds say lots of odd things (frankly, they lie about some stuff too), so the medical people discount some of what they hear. You need to be the backup for your son. 


My son avoided school too, effectively missing most of one year. I was determined that he should stay in touch with the school, and except on really bad days I would take him. There were plenty of days when I thought getting him up, dressed, and into the carpark at school was a success. He didn't get out of the car, but that's OK. There were slightly betters days when I'd get him into the school counsellors office, and he would spend a couple of hours sitting in reception there, just playing video games or whatever kids do - no school work. I refused to let him play on his computer at home during school hours, so he knew if he wanted to do that he had to go to the school counsellors office. It was a powerful incentive for him.


Gradually we got his meds right. Eventually we got the product right I think, but the dosage too high. That means his mood was OK, but he was too sleepy to function properly. Since then we have been tapering off, and he is getting better and better. He has not had a day off school since 11 August Smiley Happy Yes, I remember the date! He is on a mix of 3 meds now, but 2 of those are very low doses. Probably we will drop down to just 2 sometime this year. 


My son lost touch with most of his friends too. We did our best to keep him in touch, but when he is depressed he does not want to be around them. It is a delight these days to see him reconnect with his friends, and make new friends too.


Hang in there VBMom, it is hard work. Try to get some backup for yourself. My son really likes his Aunt (my big sis!) so she provided some valuable time out for us.