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How to help?(6 Posts)
I have a 17year old son who was diagnosed with biological depression last year. The diagnosis wasn't a shock, I have had concerns about him since he was about 8 years old which I took to our GP. There have been some other incidents along the way.
After a discussion with his psychologist and us he began taking fluoxetine mid-August. The idea being that it would help stabilise his mood and help him during this last year of school.
School is not a problem, nor home. There are no known triggers.
Right now he's upstairs in his room. He's only got up once to use the toilet. Periodically I go and check on him - ask if he wants anything to eat or drink, to talk, for me to stay in the room.
Other than that I am just sat downstairs feeling utterly useless. It's not the same as the powerlessness of having a child (or any relative or friend, for that matter) with an illness that you want to take away. For the best part, I've come to terms with that. But it's this sense of not knowing what to do, how to do it, if I could be doing something, should be doing something, etc.
Any advice gratefully received. I'm not looking for answers because I know there aren't any. The very nature of (his) depression is that it defies logic.
Caveat: apologies if I've picked the wrong forum.
Hi gatehouse sorry that you and your son are in this position. It sounds hard.
I don't have experience of being a mum to a 17 year old, but I was a depressed 17 year old and I do have MH problems, so can only offer support based on that experience.
Firstly, staying in his room all day isn't going to do him any good. He needs to get out of there. If he wants to feel better he can't just expect the medication to do that- he needs to put in a bit of effort too. Coming downstairs for half an hour and having a cup of tea, going for a walk for 30 minutes outside, or even just spending some time sitting in the garden. Although his depression may be 'biological' although usually there are triggers…he might not know what they are though. However, he needs to do something himself to increase his endorphins…medication alone is not enough.
The only thing you can do really is encourage him to get out of that room and active or at the very least doing something. He can get better- I always find that reassurance that I will get better (when I don't believe it myself) is the most helpful thing.
Exercise is really important. I find that medication is essential to me getting better, but exercise seems to turbo-boost the effects (exercise without medication does not have the same effect) although it is really, really hard to get started. I find running good, on tv last night (the doctor who gave up drugs) said there was research to show that open water swimming was beneficial. When I was in hospital there was a gym- exercise was seen as essential to getting/staying well for everyone.
But if exercise isn't going to do it any other sort of activity- playing scrabble, cards, anything that involves engaging and using the brain a bit is good. Joining in family meals. If he wants to get better then he has to make an bit of an effort himself. If he will not, or cannot make an effort himself to engage with the family, or exercise etc then really he needs to have the regular input of a mental health team i.e. more than once a week.
Sorry if this is a bit garbled. My brain isn't quite on a steady track today!
As someone who has suffered depression and also care for someone with MH problems my advice would be:
-Don't fuss over him too much, it drove me mad when people fussed
-Do/talk about normal stuff rather than focussing everything on mh, even if hes not that responsive. My DH finds this helpful
-Encourage him to set small achievable goals each day and gradually expand on them, e.g. get out of bed, if that feels ok have a shower, if that feels ok get dressed.
Does he have and involvement from mh teams other than the psychologist? DHs team run activity groups including sports. They also refered to a scheme at the gym where he gets discounted membership. You could also check out if Mind or Rethink run any groups in your area that might be helpful.
Thank you for taking the time to reply. It's good to hear the other perspectives.
He did eventually come downstairs, which was good, and was mildly more communicative.
I don't fuss as I too hate it! And I will accept his answers after, if I've judged it appropriate, gentle nudging.
I have tried to get him back into exercise. He used to play hockey but that was one of the things that fell by the wayside when things got really bad and I'm lost as to how to motivate him. Admittedly, we are not a very active family and whilst I'd love to lead by example he is not interested in any of the same sports. DH and him do have some crossovers but getting them in the same place, same head space (DH has had/has his battles with MH in the past too) and time due to DH's erratic work pattern is bloody hard! I will keep trying...
With the exception of Fridays and being more relaxed in the holidays we do sit down for supper as a family. No gadgets and lots of conversation.
He doesn't have any other professional support but does use some online forums. I have checked and they are legitimate ones and not ones that would encourage him to do something drastic. He's still reluctant to share the fact that he has depression with people - acutely aware that it still carries a stigma, doesn't want to be 'different' and hates the idea that people will treat him differently.
Sometimes it's hard to balance the depression with normal teenage behaviour.
Its great that hes using online forums for some peer support, I've found this really useful myself. I can understand that he's worried about syigma especially in his peer group as his fellow teens may have little experience of this. I do think that the stigma around depression is much less than it used to be a certainly much less than other MH conditions. I talk openly about my experiences of depression because I feel its important to normalise MH conversations in society, I'm also relatively open about being a carer for my DH so long as I feel I'm not compromising his confidentiality. I have found the more I talk to people the more I realise how many people are affected by MH problems, he may find that more people than he realises have some experience either personally or through parents and siblings.
I can understand what you are saying about how hard it is to know what is normal. I had a conversation yesterday with a CPN about my DH, whats normal, whats MH and when MH becomes the normal. His answer, everyones normal is different, but when you start questioning if somethings normal or not thats probably an early sign that its not. My DHs MH problems were put down to normal/bad teenage behaviour by Drs and parents for years before he was offered any help so at least your son has your support.
I have a 17yr old with depression. She probably spent 18mths to 2 yrs like your ds. She was put on fluoxetine to help elevate her mood enough to be able to access talking therapy, though the latter has not materialised. That medication helped a little but not enough so her psychiatrist put her on sertraline. The reason why I am waffling on about these meds is that she has improved immeasurably. Although she may still consider herself depressive this is no longer evident by any objective measures. She has started exercising (running) for the first time ever and spends more time with the family, even smiles and talks to us! I was against medication initially and certainly do not consider it to be a magic solution but it might be worth thinking about whether his current drug regime is actually working. Other than that you are doing all the right things. This is an awful condition. My dd's school has been informed and I assume some of her friends may know but only if she chose to tell them. I don't think that the stigma is what it once was but there may be a degree of incomprehension from your son'r peer group if they have no personal experience. He should only tell people if he wants to.
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