Depressed teenage son at boarding school - what can I do?(31 Posts)
My lovely 15 yo son has been diagnosed with depression. I took him to the GP last Monday morning and he has seen a counsellor and a psychiatrist since then. I have to wait until Friday before I can meet with the psychiatrist to get some understanding from him as to what is going on, meanwhile my son will see the counsellor again as he's seeing him weekly. I knew my son was getting more and more withdrawn but he's so calm and easygoing when I do see him that I've done nothing about it. He is at boarding school during the week but we see him every weekend. He comes home every Saturday. It took him to be sobbing down the phone at me saying he felt like he was going to hurt himself or someone else before I actually acknowledged there was a problem. How could I watch him stop playing sport, withdraw into his room, not go out with friends, etc and not do anything about it? What if he shouldn't be at boarding school anymore? I've just missed all the deadlines for the sixth form entry at the schools local to us? I feel so awful about this. Does anyone have experience of this? How do you get through it?
I don't have direct experience of my child experiencing depression, but have had it myself and there isn't much you CAN do.
Does he want to continue to board? If not, is he able to attend as a day pupil?
I would start by speaking to your son and finding out whether school is the issue and, if so, asking him if he wants to leave. If he does, I would support him in that decision. Things like school places can be sorted out so I wouldn't worry about that too much. However DS was at a boarding school and 2 of his friends suffered with depression; the other boys really looked out for them (still do now they're at uni) and both boys decided to stay til the end of 6th form as they didn't want to lose their friendship network (boarding can create really strong bonds). The school put counselling in place.
If he wants to stay, I would speak to his house master and make sure they are aware of the situation and finding out what support they can offer - schools nowadays are used to dealing with all sorts,of,pastoral issues.
It must be awful,to be worrying about him from a distance.
His school hasn't been very supportive. His housemaster told everyone that he had gone home because he was "feeling sad".
You could maybe speak to the local schools - they may still have spaces even if the deadline has passed.
Definitely speak to your local schools. It sounds like the pastoral care at his boarding school is pretty rotten if that's what his housemaster said
Also please don't blame yourself. What your son needs now is to feel loved and cared for and supported and listened to and it's crystal clear from your posts that you're very much there for him. Now he's under the care of a psychiatrist things are going in the right direction. Depression is horrible but it's great that he felt he could turn to you and talk to you on the phone about it even though he was very upset. Definitely talk to him and see what he thinks about going back to his current school next year and make sure he understands that the choice is his and that you'll give him support no matter what and that all you want is for him to feel healthy and better and that you'll make whatever move that will be best for him without putting any pressure on him. (I'm sure you'd do that anyway. I'm just saying what my mum said that really helped me when I had depression!)
I think that a lot of pressure can be very bad for teenage mental health and lead to depression and maybe the possibly competitive element at a boarding school might not help that? If it's a very all male environment I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lot of bottling up of feelings. Make sure he knows it's okay to talk and express himself.
Has it shocked you that it's taken so much before you acknowledged his distress? It's hard to tell from the way you write.
ssd I suspect OP is posting for support not shaming.
No idea we have some people have to be nasty to the OP!
I would ask him if he wants to leave boarding school, make it clear that you are more than happy to support him at home and you will sort something out for sixth form. In the meantime hopefully the counselling will be helping. Just keep the lines of communication open and continue to be there for him.
ssd I suspect OP is posting for support not shaming.
yes, but support for herself not for her son, as I read it
Ime it is unusual for boarding schools not to be supportive. Do they have a counsellor or chaplain who could talk to your Ds. If he is due to sit GCSEs this year you need to establish quite quickly whether he can continue at school or make alternative provision to defer or educate at home/locally. I would put 6th form applications to one side for now and focus on getting your Ds well and supported. Most 6th forms will accept applications later.
Well done for posting.
help him to get to grips with the triggers as well as the cause. Eg, is it the boarding he hates, i.e. would he like to attend as a day boy, f that were possible. Is it the school, in which case he can change school, and would it be boarding or not. Is it the academic or the social expectations? Does he miss being with you a lot? Is it something completely different? Eg sexual orientation, fear of something? Or a particular person?
It's v important to get thus right. A lit if people are miserable at boarding school to the point if depression and it can affect them life long, it's worse the younger they are. Read Joy Schaverien boarding school syndrome and if he went to prep school duffields the making of them.
Boarding school suits some people down to the ground. Some people have to go there for one reason or another, some choose to and love it. But nit everyone does. And it's not a reflection on their family whether they do or not.
DH and I both hated our v famous ones. I'd have preferred a governess. No school at all.
Hth, pm me if you want.
I didn't get that impression of the OP at alll. She seems very upset on her son's behalf.
Jeez, why the nastiness to the OP? Can't you tell how upset she is, people?
OP, I missed depression in my DD for well over 18 months. it wasn't until AS level total failure that I realised - and was utterly ashamed at myself.
School were totally useless. She was an AAA student that went to UUD overnight and all they said was "I don't really think we would want her back for Y13".
Children hide it very well OP. Seemingly fine on the outside, in bits on the inside. Just keep listening, keep talking, keep up the counselling, and just let him dictate what he wants to do.
op, it's ok - you're doing your best now (I was the same and Ds lives with me) - it's so hard to tell what's normal teen reclusiveness and what isn't
I hope you get some answers on Friday and can make a plan for moving forwards. Don't worry about 6th form applications - there usually are places..
Hopefully, the psychiatrist will be able to give you some useful, and helpful, information on Friday.
I would though try and find out from your son how he feels about school, and whether boarding is a problem for him. It doesn't suit all DC, even if they are home every weekend. Or whether boarding is fine, but there is some other school concern which is causing issues. To be honest, I would not be very impressed that the pastoral team at school hadn't picked up on there being a problem when, for example, your DS suddenly withdrew from all sport. My experience of boarding schools is that the staff are usually very vigilant about this sort of thing.
I would also ring the local schools, if you haven't already, and ask if they would be willing to extend the deadline. Worth a try.
We need to always take depression seriously. I have thankfully never been depressed, but I have experience of a depressed thirteen year old. It lasted a year and a half. Crucial to recovery for us were these things:
1. Weekly talking therapy with a professional - luckily we had health insurance which paid for this.
2. As parents we were told to remove all pressure from our child. Homework, school attendance etc. are less important than good mental health.
3. Keeping school discreetly informed so that teachers expected less from our child.
4. Listening. The therapist taught us to listen to our child, rather than telling child what to do, controlling and making judgements (we had no idea we had been parenting so badly!)
Now, DC is in sixth form, doing well, no sign of depression, but I always keep an eye out for the signs.
well if I read the op wrongly as it seems I have, then I apologize op and I hope I haven't put you off returning to your thread.
OP - please don't blame yourself. Teens are a difficult breed to read at the best of times - they have huge pressures from school, peers, hormones etc - it's easy to miss signs.
Also don't worry at all about sixth form deadlines. These are put in place to give schools an idea about numbers and option blocks. You can go into a sixth form in August with his results sheet and get a place.
I would take all pressure off straight away. No big decisions need to be made now. Ideally get him home and let him get some professional help (talking and medication ig thats offered) and just be himself.
Don't worry about the practicalities of a levels etc. yet. I know college dates have passed but it may be he needs some time to get himself together and exams and things can be sorted out later. Truely in the grand scheme of things him being happy and enjoying life again is much much more important than exams/uni, so try not and let it show even if you are disappointed with how things have turned out.
I would personally bring him home rather than give him lots of choices to make - quite hard at this stage. When he is better he could make choices where/when to return.
My DD suffered from depression at 17.
Is he at home now? If not I would go and get him tomorrow. He's ill, he needs to be with his mum and he needs time to tell you what he wants/needs.
As Molly Hua says you must remove all pressure from him, in the short term.
In fact of all of Molly's points are exactly what I was advised.
I wd also recommend somehow finding the money for a private therapist so he can be seen quickly. If he has to wait several weeks or months for an NHS appointment he could get more depressed in that time. No easy answers here because it's so expensive. Good luck.
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