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Teenage son is self harming(50 Posts)
Hi. I am reaching out because I am desperate. We are a normal family of five. My husband and I are happily married, we don't argue (except the usual grumpy stuff about rubbish and dishwashers). We live in a large 5 bed house in a lovely area. My three sons are handsome and clever. My eldest is very bright - he nailed his GCSEs doing no work. He is now failing his A'levels. The school has called us in because of it. We don't care if he fails - we just want him alive.
Three days ago my husband had a phone call at work from a lady to say that my son had been to see her because he was in a very dark place. It transpires that he made a doctors appointment himself and got referred.
The school called me yesterday to tell me that he had mentioned he was having suicidal thoughts.
Today I have found out that he has been self-harming. There are 'goodbye' notes under his mattress and a diary on his floor saying how he needs to 'bleed' but cutting himself makes him feel sick (thank goodness he has always been squeamish).
Both of us have tried to talk to him. He doesn't want talk to us. He says we have to trust him and let him work it out on his own. He says he just wants to come home and it 'all be back to how it was' ie before we knew. He says that we only want to talk to him to make ourselves feel better and that we aren't listening to what HE wants - which is to be left alone to manage by himself.
I just want to know that he isn't going to kill himself. We can deal with the rest. He is going through the CAHMS route himself but we can get paid for help and also via our BUPA cover.
Can he, at 16yrs, really 'do this' himself?
I need to add that I suffer from depression and have been on medication for over 10 years. I am perfectly okay ever since taking the very first tablet. I can see that my mother also suffered but, being 'old school, never spoke of it or acknowledged it. My sons knows I do because I have my medication in my bathroom and he has seen it.
Just hand-holding because I've been there with DS1, who sounds very like your son and is also handsome, intelligent, high-achieving and absolutely the last person you would expect to have problems like this.
I think it's fantastic that your DS has been to see the doctor off his own back and has organised to go to CAMHS. This shows that, no matter what he might say to you, he actually does want to get better and understands that he needs outside help to do that.
As for whether you should get additional help privately or from BUPA, I suppose that depends just how quickly CAMHS will see him and how serious you think his suicidal tendencies are. My DS would not entertain the idea of any help for a long time, so we tried to fix him ourselves and he just got worse. Took him to a private counsellor for a few months and, whilst he said he found it useful, it wasn't enough. So by the time I eventually got him to the GP he was in a crisis situation and CAMHS saw him within 24 hours because it was so urgent.
The reassurance you can give your DS is that CAMHS don't just hand out anti-depressants willy-nilly to minors. He would need to be assessed by several people including a consultant child psychiatrist to ensure that medication is really warranted. In addition, the meds are only given to minors in conjunction with intensive therapy. So it's a two-pronged approach.
DS1 now has weekly sessions with a therapist at CAMHS and sees the psychiatrist doctor every few weeks to review his medication /discuss any side-effects / check his weight etc. For him it's been literally a life-saver. He says he wouldn't be alive today if he hadn't had that help.
Hope it helps you to hear of our experience, although obviously everyone is different.
Oh, meant to say that after the first few sessions, I have not been present in any of the therapy sessions, so DS1 is "doing it himself" if you see what I mean. I know he talks to her about things he doesn't talk to me about, so he has that element of privacy which it seems your DS is keen on.
I sympathise, I'm going through something very similar.
My DS also 16, has been like this on and off for two years. He originally had 6 sessions with CAHMS but only actually went to four of them. Now he is older he was referred back through adult services. They wont prescribe medication, he won't engage in counselling so effectively, he is dealing with it himself.
Not very well I might add, he has stormed out of the house this afternoon over not getting his own way. He has done this before, knowing it increases my anxiety and I get hysterical, trying to ring him and text him. I'm trying to detach, so haven't been in touch.
I am sorry you are going through this OP. I know something of your frustration. My eldest DD is a little bit younger than your DS. She is self harming, also has suicidal thoughts, also being treated by CAMHS. We are always trying to talk to her and trying to find out how we can help, but she is very private, hates a fuss and says there is nothing we can do. She hates that everything is out in the open since we found out about the self harm. She thinks now that's all we ever talk about. It's not, but we can't help but worry about her, so obviously the concern about suicide is ever present.
I think it's amazing that your DS got himself referred, he is obviously a very sensible and mature young man. I would tend to leave the CAMHS treatment as it is rather than confuse the issue with another treatment. But that is provided that you and your DS are satisfied with the treatment that is being provided. CAMHS provision can be hugely variable depending on the area you are in. DD is being offered weekly therapy, monthly psychiatry review and also we are being offered some parenting support. So it's quite a comprehensive package. We could also go private but I am going to see how this works out for a while. Also I feel that DD is old enough to have quite a big say about her treatment, so I will only step in and make changes to her treatment if she agrees it.
Thank you so much for all the replies. I forgot to mention that he is also displaying anorexic tendencies - admitting he was always starving but stopped himself eating.
its almost like he is fishing around for some kind of relief - but he is too squeamish for self harm and too hungry to starve himself all the time.
Has anyone else found 'goodbye' notes? is it just playing it out to make himself feel better?
He didn't want anyone to know because then it changes everthing and makes it harder for him. I guess causing upset to his family is something he wanted to avoid.
He doesn't see the mental health person until 10th March - it seems so far away.
Its so hard to sit back and let him 'do it himself' - we are helpless.
Then - right now he is at my neighbours house - great family friends, where his best friend (female) is and has asked if he can have dinner with them.
I just want him to say that he is never going to kill himself. is that too much to ask?
We've only actively approached him two or three times to try and talk - but he now accuses us of violating his space (bedroom) and that we are always bringing it up. What does he expect??? !!!!
I do feel like he is toying with us a little. He is delightful and charming with everyone else - but us.
I'm glad you've said about him toying with you, I;ve felt like that too. Then I feel guilty. He accuses me of being over protective - he can't see why?
He's just cut us out completely. Says that nothing has changed for him - just for us, now that we have found out how its been for him for the last two years. Accuses us of just wanting to make ourselves feel better by seeking assurances from him.
The best thing, he says, that we can do is to leave him alone.
My friend said that home is a safe place where they can play out these emotions safely.
Restricting his food intake is another way in which he's manifesting distress/unhappiness I guess, and is something DS1 does too. (Hence why he's weighed by the mental health team). I know I can't force him to eat but I do insist that he sits at the table for family meals, serve him a portion and hope that it's so delicious that he succumbs. Can you do the same? Make no comment if he doesn't eat, but just insist that he joins in with family chit-chat at least.
If your DS is able to be "delightful and charming with everyone else" that does suggest that things aren't perhaps quite so bleak as you think, but I would still keep a very close eye on him (whilst pretending obviously not to be overly-concerned, as that will aggravate him.) I have a very strong parental control setting on the home wifi, so that e.g. if DS1 tries to research suicide methods or anorexia sites, he can't. He hasn't worked out it's anything to do with me and just thinks the internet points him towards sites saying "Don't do it, life is worth living". At times, I've had to remove all knives, sharp objects and medication from the house and remove all the keys to the window locks so he can't get onto the roof or out of a window. Only you will be able to judge if your DS is so bad that you need to do likewise.
Like you, I wanted DS1 to promise that he would never kill himself, but he couldn't. However, he has promised that when he has suicidal thoughts he will tell me. We have a safe word that he can say and he knows I will instantly remove him from whatever situation he's in and make him safe. If you are ever in a situation where you think his life is in danger, you can go to A&E as they can get an immediate psychiatric assessment done.
Just to give you some hope - DS1 has tried various ADs and is now on one which seems to suit him very well. Eating, sleeping, going to school (most of the time), laughing, smiling and much more back to his normal self. .
oldbagofsoot, I think what you say is probably right, as in playing it out, processing the emotions safely at home... BUT you have to take any suicidal intention seriously. If there are any further signs of suicidal intent (e.g. more notes) and you are worried before the March 10th appointment, then you can call the CAMHS emergency number (if there is one) or take him to A&E or call the local crisis team. This seems over dramatic but it actually might have the consequence of making him take your feelings seriously too. I think you have every right to be involved and to at least be able to have a conversation with CAMHS. It is really stressful having to deal with this in your family, and you can't be expected just to sit back and hope for the best.
btw have you locked away medication?
purpleisthebest, that is interesting re. parental controls. How have you actually done that? I can block certain sites and keywords. What words do you block?
I think its too late for the internet - if he has been feeling this way for 2 years then he's been there already. Also I have tried put on parental controls but it won't let anyone use even facebook - blocks every site -
I haven't hidden medication but wlll ongoing - we really only have calpol and normal paracetamol etc
I have hidden all my scalpels - I am crafter and have a whole room of craft tools, wood and paper cutters - making it no too easy to do without it seeming a big odd.
Purpleisbest - I thought it was almost hard to get anti depressants for the under 18s? I am pretty sure that his depression is hereditary and no amount of 'talking about it' will help.
I was a little bit older. School found out and told me I had to go to the doctor or they would tell my parents (I was over 18 at the time). The GP put me on Prozac and referred me to a counsellor, psychiatrist and psychologist, all without my parents' knowledge. My mum only found out because she saw my arm one evening (I'd been wearing long sleeves and tubi grips to conceal the wounds). The next day was the one day I didn't go in to school. I gave up a little bit.
My mum swept my room and removed everything even remotely harmful. I just got more inventive. Some of my worst scars are from 'improvising'.
I cut myself because I needed to feel pain and somehow manifest my emotional pain as physical pain. I often didn't let myself heal. I hurt myself to feel though, rather than to kill myself. I had vague suicidal thoughts but they were more around 'if I crash my car no one would know I committed suicide and that would be kinder' type things.
If I can help, let me know.
Are you still in this situation?
We've been in your situation. 16 yr old ds, high flying, handsome, amazing boy that just seemed to crash. Self harming and writing suicide notes. We cleared the whole house of anything sharp plus medications and slept on his bedroom floor with him. I have had depression and I could see in his eyes that look that I can recognise. He was on the way down into a pit of blackness. Tried CBT first but to be honest I didn't hold out much hope. Referred him privately to a child physciatrist who immediately recommended AD's. He had been on setraline for 8 months now and it's the best thing we could have done for him. I truly believe I may have lost him.
so sorry you're going through this.
Me? No. Self harm will always be my default. There are times now when I seriously consider it when I'm just so beside myself and need something to break myself out of it, but I can't remember the last time I self harmed.
It turns out though that an 18yo managing all of this on her own wasn't the best. The Prozac made me numb (which really wasn't good when I was trying to 'feel') and the psychiatrist kept upping my dosage. In the end I stopped taking it, abruptly, which is not a good thing to do. The psychologist missed my first appt. I never went back. the counsellor was the best one, but my main problem was that I couldn't understand what everyone's problem with me doing this was, when it was making me feel better and it wasn't hurting anyone else n
I think it bothers people because it is a sign of distress and a drastic and worrying way to deal with it. injury is alarming and we are programmed to find it unnatural and distressing. the people who care about you don't want to know that you are actually damaging yourself.
You are right though - in theory - if it is making you feel better, but it does hurt others being the people around you who love you and care for you. BUT as my son says ... it is only to make THEM feel better because they can't see the damage - inside you will still be feeling just the same without a way to make you feel better. then you have to look to why you feel so bad and start there.
Thank you. I am searching for glimmers of hope here. Just woken up into another day with that initial morning warmness then the crashing realisation of where we are at. The problem is getting him referred privately - he wants to do it his way and I can see him just stuck in queues of others. his assessment appointment is not til 10th march - the emotional support lady said that if we felt he was in danger to take him to A&E - but we are nowhere near that (I don't think) but there is a whole pit of darkness between where we are and that. I just want to do something NOW and feel so helpless. meanwhile he is in his room, door shut, doing I don't know what, probably sleeping. Now he know we know he is getting worse. I haven't cleared his room but will do when he is at school tomorrow - it will be just a 'good old clean up' and i'll do the other two boys too. and i''ll remove stuff and try not to read his diary (the support lady must have told him to write stuff out) - because it made me feel in so much pain, like a train running up and down my body, my son writing 'I want to bleed' and urgh ... I feel so sick. At least if he self-harms he isn't killing himself. Apparently self harmers are less likely to attempt suicide. I feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff - someone pulled the world out from under us. for us, life has changed forever, for my son I guess it has been like this for a while.
andadietcoke - sorry I don't know how to tag you to a message - I replied to you above.
itwillbebetter - same with you.
I want to thank everyone who has responded to my post. Quite honestly I expected no replies - don't know why - a natural human thought like when you host a party and you worry no guests will come.
It really really helps to read that others are, or have been, in the exact same position and that i will get better, even though the road is going to be very long and rough. If I just knew he was going to be okay - or alive - then I could cope better but there is no way of knowing.
My husband is not coping - i think men are worse at coping - he has gone straight to the worse case scenario and can't get himself back. he has tried to call several of the talk helplines but they are all busy and just say to leave a message. He is starting to annoy me now because its like I have two to deal with. Now he's not eating either because he says he feels sock. I just sob like a wounded animal, then feel better, until the feelings come round again.
Ironically, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go on a course she was running for a friend - about teenage mental health issues - I mean, come on - how weird is that? Scary coincidence.
My son has also 'seen things' in his room over the years. A girl standing over his bed, a person in the mirror - a few weeks ago - he phoned me to ask me to come up whilst he did his teeth and got into bed because he was freaked out. He didn't want to sleep in the spare room though and just wanted to get into bed and go to sleep. that freaked me out - still does.
I'm sorry - I just need to type and waffle
Waffle away -it helps.
My son still hasn't come home after storming out yesterday but did text me to say he was staying at a friends house. Normally by now I would be absolutely beside myself yet I'm eerily calm.
This sounds very much like me when I was 14 -and I was sectioned and put in hospital the same day I said I was suicidal to a psychiatrist (a few days after seeing GP first) It surprises me that has not happened to him, as he's so young. He might have said "he has no plans about it" and they have then judged him to be safe at home, though I would still hide medications (incl. paracetamol. An OD of it can cause harm to his liver, though not kill him. According to doctors I've spoken to at least.) Waiting until 10th March might seem long, but the reality is that he has felt this way for a long time - 11 days is not that long in the grand scheme of things. You'll have to give him great credit for trying to sort himself out, that's really an achievement for someone his age. I sincerely hope it will work out well for you. You might feel it's hereditary, but it's always worth trying to talk it out anyway.
You asked about how difficult it is to get ADs for under 18s. It's certainly much more difficult than for adults (because they come with a rather terrifying list of potentially long-term side-effects in children) so the psychiatrist making the assessment will want to be sure that the potential for harm is justified by the severity of the situation the teenager is in.
It's very common for even normal teenagers to go through "Oh My God, I hate my life, I wish I was dead" moments. Saying you want to die isn't great, but it's very different from someone who has e.g. planned the date of their suicide, how they will do it, bought the equipment etc. The psychiatrist will gently tease out from your DS how serious his suicidal thoughts are, how often they occur and will also be interested in your family mental history, because as you say there is often a genetic link.
Do try to reassure your DH that lots of teenagers have problems like this and for the most part they come out unscathed into adult life. I'm not saying don't worry, because obviously you will, but try to take reassurance that your DS took himself off to the doctor which shows that he wants to get better and that means there is hope. I was anorexic as a teenager - weighed 4.5 stone at my lowest, but once I hit 20 I literally never went down that path again. I view it as a weird experience whilst my brain was growing up, and absolutely love food now!
Here's some more contact details in case you don't have them:
www.papyrus-uk.org Advice on preventing suicide in young people. Helpline: 0800 0684141
www.youngminds.org.uk Parent helpline 0808 8025544
Samaritans 08457 909090