My wife and I are pensioners. Our son, who is nearly 40, lives with us.
Up until a few months ago, he lived a relatively normal life. Then he became mentally ill. He spends nearly all his waking hours talking to us about something that happened when he was five years old. He just keeps on repeating the same story. All his friends and relatives have blocked him on social media because of his ranting. This only makes things worse because he desperately wants people to listen to him. We have told him that he needs to see a physiatrist but he doesn't think that he has a problem. We listen to him without arguing because that would cause him to become loud and verbally abusive. It's difficult for us to live a normal life. We go out as much as possible for a break. We love him and feel powerless to help him.
Welcome to the forums. I'm so glad you thought to come here and post; this sounds like a very distressing situation. I think you are absolutely right that he should see a mental health professional. Can I ask if the story has any basis in reality, or sounds familiar to you? Have you tried just sitting and listening to him, even if the story is bizarre or improbable? It may help him at least feel more calm and less scared. In either case, I think he should talk to someone about it who can help him.
I am not a mental health or medical professional but I do know that becoming fixated on certain things, only being able to talk and think about them, and having delusions (if indeed that's what is going on) can be a sign of a serious problem. Of course, the fact that your son is a fully grown adult makes things a bit more complicated, especially because he can push back more on any intervention you try to make. Still, he is your child and needs care.
I would encourage you to do everything in your power to get him seen by a doctor, while trying to respect his agency, safety, and dignity. Start by letting him talk it out and assure him that you understand the story he is telling and that it is not being dismissed out of hand. We are always here for you on the forums as you make your way through this tough time.
Thank you for your understanding.
We've found that the best way to handle the situation is to just listen to him, without interruption and with the occasional agreement to what he's saying. After a while, he calms down and even thanks us for listening to him.
He thinks that it would be demeaning to see a psychiatrist so I've suggested that he see a doctor who could prescribe antidepressant medication, because he often talks about self harm.
I think that sounds like a good temporary solution. If you can get your son to agree to see a GP, that would be a great next step. In order for him to be seen by a psychiatrist, he would need a referral from a GP anyway. Do your best to frame the appointment as in his best interest, not demeaning, etc. Please feel free to keep us up-to-date here on the forums or stick around to keep chatting if you like. We aren't going anywhere 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like something is definitely going on with your son and I think it's really important to find out what it is.
I would start by suggesting your son visit his GP. If he makes a double appointment it will give them time to have a good discussion of the issues.
The GP can then determine the next best steps to take to help your son. This might be a referral to a mental health practitioner or any number of things.
I know you love your son and that this change in him must be hard to watch. Hang in there. And don't hesitate to post again.
Kind thoughts to you
We've had to call the police on several occasions since this started because his verbal outbursts were getting worse. We spent several nights in motels just to get some peace. The last time that we arrived home from a motel, he was extremely abusive, so we left home and called the police. They took him away and put an intervention order on him, which he breached, so they locked him up. He will have been in remand for three weeks by the time his court case is heard. We're hoping that they will pick up on his mental condition.
The police have always been very good with the way that they handle the situation, but they're not equipped to deal with someone with a mental illness.
It appears to us that there is no law that forces a person to be treated for mental illness unless they agree to it.
Now we're just waiting to see what happens in court.
I'm really sorry to hear about the developments with your son. I imagine that you must be experiencing a wide range of emotions, from sadness to grief to anger to worry to guilt, and I'm really sorry. I appreciate that this is very difficult for all of you and that you have done the best you can in these very difficult circumstances.
I'm curious to know if the police asked you if you believed there was a mental health issue at play? I'm asking because it's a shame that your son was not diverted into the mental health system before he entered the legal system (unfortunately this is not uncommon). My concern is that there will now be a presumption in court that he's a criminal, not a mentally unwell person. But it may still be possible for you to influence the situation.
This is just my opinion, but if it were me, I would reach out to your son's legal representative. I'm assuming he will be represented by legal aid? I would tell his representative that you:
- have had concerns about your son's mental health for some time
- have tried to encourage him to seek treatment
- you didn't know what to do when his behavior escalated and became abusive, so you naturally turned to the police for help
- however, you still strongly believe he needs to be assessed for a potentially serious mental illness.
See what the lawyer says. He/she may be able to assist.
Given the IVO, I can't see that your son will be released into your custody. Have you asked the police where they think he may end up next?
No pressure to answer my questions, but happy to keep talking.
Kind thoughts to you
The police did take him to the psych unit at the hospital where he stayed overnight, then released him in the morning. I've heard that some patients can put on a sane face when they need to, to get released from the hospital. I'm sure that he would be capable of that. His lawyer has told me that she is getting advice from a psychiatrist. I'm hoping that the judge will make him get treatment, rather than convict him of criminal offenses.
I'm sorry to hear that your son was prematurely released from the psych ward.
It should have been an opportunity to avoid the current legal mess and help your son. But the system doesn't always work the way I wish it would. And it's my understanding that unless someone poses an imminent risk to themself or others they cannot be kept for long against their will.
I'm glad the lawyer will be seeking advice from a psychiatrist, as breaching an IVO is a serious criminal matter. Your son clearly needs help. A fine or jail term is not going to solve the root problem.
I know you are worried about your son, and so am I, but I'm also concerned about you and your wife. Because the reality is that you both need to be kept safe and I'm sure the situation is taking a toll.
How are you coping? Eating and sleeping okay? I would like to encourage you to call the bb support line if you feel you need to talk to someone. Counselling services are available 24/7 on 1300 22 4636. Your GP is also a good source of support.
Do you know how your son is feeling now? Any family had contact?
Kind thoughts to you