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Suicidal son - Carers UK Forum

Suicidal son

For issues specific to caring for someone with mental ill health.
My teen son made a serious attempt on his life last week and has been admitted to an adolescent unit, having only been discharged earlier this year.

My husband and I are coming to terms with the fact that one day he will probably succeed. They want this to be a crisis admission and even though they are in the process of sectioning him they have set a discharge date of “no later than early October” because they want to avoid a long admission (he was in for 14 months previously).

So he will return to us and he will try again and this time I may not happen to hear a noise in the night that makes me investigate, or he may decide to take himself somewhere where he’s unlikely to be rescued in time. But he will do it again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes until he succeeds. Unless somebody can help him more than he is currently being helped.

It’s just horrible living with that ticking time bomb underneath us, just waiting for that day when he succeeds.

Is there anyone else who is living with a situation like this?
Dear Alison, my heart goes out to you. I have a 'young adult' son myself, and the thought of him trying to take his own life, of being so unhappy, is terrifying....

Is he receiving any kind of treatment to mitigate his moods of self-destructive despair? If so, are the meds making any difference?

Do you have any idea WHY he is so deeply unhappy?

Do you have reason to suppose, for example, that this is a 'traumatic reaction' to something 'dreadful' in his youth that you have not been aware of (after all, from about the age of 12/13 they 'live in their own world' and dreadful things can go on without us realising....)

Are you in touch with the charities and support organisations for the parents of young people who are suicidal? They may have practical ways to helping keeping him safe (for example, 'wiring' his room for sound perhaps??)(personaly, I think ANYTHING is justified to prevent such a tragedy....)

Will he talk to you at all about what troubles him so much?

Do you feel, in your heart, that he is a 'normal' young man, who is deeply unhappy, or do you fear he has 'mental illness' of some form, such as schizophrenia? I'm sorry if that sounds a 'stupid' question, but we should not, I feel (only personaly) automatically assume that suicide is de facto proof of mental illness, as I don't think it always is. Sometimes it can be a 'rational' reaction to intense distress, and that distress to be 'externally caused'. (ie, as opposed to the emotional distress originating in the effects of the mental illness - for example, tormented by 'voices' and so on??)

I do very much hope this 'sustained crisis' WILL pass in the end. I wonder if there are support groups 'out there' (eg, on the Internet) of other young men and women who were once as distressed as your poor son, but whose attempts failed, and now they are glad they did? If so, they might be the best counsellors for him???

With kindest wishes from another mother, Jenny
Hi Jenny

Thank you so much for reading my post and taking the time to answer me.

He was 100% normal until he was 12 1/2. He was bright, talented in multiple areas, popular. A few things happened then - I was diagnosed withal an autoimmune disorder, he broke his arm, and he also started puberty. At some stage, probably a bit after that, he started being bullied. Mildly but that's not the point.

He became withdrawn, school attendance dropped (migraines nearly every day). After a while we found out he was self harming and hearing very negative distressing voices. The following year he started talking about suicide and a few months later he made his first attempt. 14 months in an adolescent unit. He always said the symptoms were just the same, despite therapies and medication.
Now he doesn't present as normal but hospitals always assume he's autistic as he doesn't look at people and can be very hard to talk to. My son is in there somewhere but we get rare glimpses of him these days.

Today we have had a small glimmer of hope. As you've probably found, they dislike diagnosing young people but the paperwork says depressive psychosis with anxiety. They say it's not schizophrenia because he's not deteriorating.

He had an independent advisor and doctor into the hospital today to section him and this guy has called us this afternoon and said he doesn't think our son is psychotic. He feels that he's emotionally hyperactive and anxious. Also controlling. He's hoping to stay involved in our son's case because he feels it's a puzzle he can solve.

So just a tiny glimmer but I'll take it! We have yet to hear the hospital opinion on this but if he's right it will be the reason why the antipsychotics never helped him at all. And if he's wrong but he gets people to look at the problem from another angle maybe he can be helped before it's too late.

Thank you again so much for answering me. I know there's such a drive to talk about mental health but I find I don't talk about this with many people because I'm a private person anyway and because it's not my own mental health. Fortunately mine is robust! So to know that when I do get to needing to reach out that someone is listening means an awful lot x
Hi Alison,
I'm sorry I don't have experience of MH, but I do know how puberty, hormones and health problems can cause big problems for young people.

Very pleased to read your update about the glimmer of hope. Having someone genuinely interested, is definitely an improvement, I hope this chap can ease your son's suffering.

Thanks Melly
it makes the world of difference, to be honest. Yesterday I saw nothing but the fact that one day he would succeed in taking his life. Today there's a chance he can be saved. Going through this for the last three years has been so emotional for us all. But just maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel....
Alison, that does, indeed, sound like a glimmer of hope.....

I do think that finding the RIGHT 'counsellor/psychiatrist/therapist' (whatever one wants to call such folk!) is essential. And I completely agree that trying NOT to fit someone into a particular 'box' and then never changing the label can be unhelpful.

The human mind is SO mysterious - in a way, psychistrists try and classify, and put labels, and explore, and compare, and so on and so on, but the 'mystery' of the human mind remains....

I can't but think that sometimes it is not a matter of 'correct diagnosis' but 'correct treatment' - I know that can sound stupid, as again, you can't treat correctly until you have diagnosed correctly, but what I think you CAN do is simply find a treatment that works IRRESPECTIVE of what a formal diagnosis would bring up. In other words, if this chap can 'reach' your son, make contact with him, connect, then THAT is what is most valuable.

How do you think your son is with him? Can he trust him, do you think? That would be the essential first step....

May I say a bit that is, I warn you, entirely 'off my own bat' (ie, just from 'what I've read and experienced in my life). First off, I can't but think that your son NOT having schizophrenia must surely make him more 'reachable'. Mental illnesses seem to fall into two broad categories overall (with a lot of interaction) - there seem to be forms that are predominantly about how we KNOW the world, how we perceive it (correctly or not, eg, hallucinations, persecutions and so on) - cognitive disorders - and forms that are predominantly about what we FEEL about the world (that people are hostile to us, threatening, sneering, unloving, cruel, etc etc) - they are 'affective' disorders that almost boil down to 'I am unhappy with the way things are'......

(Presumably, on my very 'crude and amateur' categorisation there is also the third category overall of 'neurological' disorders such as autism/Aspergers, where the 'error' - or perhaps only 'difference' (ie, not to make it 'disorder!) - is in the brain circuitry per se, rather than in the 'mind' emerging in a 'distorted' way from a neurotypical brain???)

It seems to me, as a lay person, that it must be easier to 'reach' someone with an affective disorder, rather than one with a cognitive disorder like schizophrenia.....??

You mention 'emotionally hyperactive and controlling'....I don't know whether you have other children, but of course in a way, that phrase could describe almost any teenager! I don't say that to trivialise, but perhaps to indicate that the 'problem' here is the 'hyper' - ie 'excessively hyper even for a teenager'????

Teenagers DO feel just SO much. Life is an 'agony' in many ways - as if SO much emotional overload is unbearable.

As for the 'controlling' in a way, again, this is almost a corollary of the 'emotionally hypersensitive' - controllers are people who FEAR excessively. They fear abandonment, they fear loss, they fear being unloved for themselves - so they try and 'control' the inherently uncontrollable reactions of others. Because none of us can 'make' someone love us, we are inherently vulnerable to rejection, to heartbreak etc etc. Controllers try and control an uncontrollable universe....and perhaps, darkly, the 'ultimate way' they control the universe is by ending their participation in it....

(The dreadful phrase 'to take one's own life' can have a double meaning if you think about it - it can mean to 'take control' of whether one is alive or not.....)

Just one other thought - there is SO much talk these days of what I guess is summed up as 'gender fluidity' and 'sexual mis/identity'. Do you think there is any chance of this being a factor? Yes, we are all supposed to be 'fine' with 'coming out' etc etc, but for a teenager it can be a source of huge huge torment and confusion????

I'm only saying all this to 'chuck a few thoughts into the ring' if ANY of them 'ring true'. But the key message from me is how GOOD it is that your son has you to love him, and fear for him BECAUSE you love him.....

Does your son understand this? Does he understand that being the recipient of love also makes HIM responsible for YOUR happiness? That if he does end his life, that YOURS will end as well, through grief? Or would that burden him even more?

I do do hope that this new therapist might just prove a turning point for him. Although the human mind is 'mysterious' it is also resilient. Think what people in the world have suffered, and yet have 'come through'. May this be for your son as well.....

Kindest wishes, Jenny
Hi Alison
I have no magic answers but there are some free future learn courses on mental health in the young which helped me, not the the least in realising just how many people are in the same boat.
The courses run frequently and so if there's not one on now there will be soon. They are done online so totally private and you don't have to use your real name. They are also free although they do keep prompting you to pay upgrades, which are unneccessary.

I was also taking to a friend just the other day who's son is on the autistic spectrum and for some unfathomable reason keeps saying he wants to die. It turns out he says this when he's tired. Somehow the verbal words come out different to what he is feeling. Now shes realised this when he says 'i want to die' she can say 'you are tired, go to bed', which he does, sleeps and wakes the next day. Then the next evening it is repeated. He's just using words that seem alarming to us but mean something different to him.
I mention this because it does seem your boy has some sort of communication difficulty and I know ASD tend to magnify or show around puberty.

Also, hospitals have a duty to plan for prompt discharge, in fact they have to plan for it from day 1. It doesn't mean it's actually going to happen until the time is right.


Not in same position, but, without going into detail, I know psychiatric day centres can help after leaving hospital. You can do things like art, music, yoga, tai chi, computer classes etc. there. Also there is the cameraderie/community aspect too.

Perhaps something to look into?
Thank you al, for your replies, there’s a lot to think about there.

He’s been assessed many times over the last few years for autism as he presents as heavily autistic on first meetings but in reality it’s a side effect of whatever is going on in that head of his. Since admission to hospital the first time round he’s become very socially anxious and his psychosis (I’ll still call it that because he does see things which aren’t there) gives him a degree of paranoia and distrust.

Futurelearn is brilliant and I’ve done several of their courses on mental health. I had to give up my old job when he was on suicide watch because one of had to be with him 24 hours so when he was first admitted I was a carer without a caree. I spent a lot of that time researching mental health to try and be as helpful to him as I could.

I don’t know of any day centres round here, sadly, and I don’t think he would go. In the community he has a care coordinator From the early help psychosis team and they run fortnightly sessions which he refuses to attend. He goes to a therapeutic school though so the school covers a lot of that. But I think this summer holiday was too long for him.

You’re right Jenny, the treatment is way more important than the diagnosis but I think I always search for a name to put to it so I can find out what the future may hold. Sadly the man who gives us the glimmer of hope is an independent advisor so we will have to see how the hospital respond to what he says. They may just dismiss him. Unfortunately my son isn’t talking to or seeing any members of our immediate or extended family at the moment so I’ve no idea how he is with this man or whether he even knows what the conclusion was! But you’re right, he’s reachable still (even if not by us right now....) and there is still the chance that he can be helped even though it doesn’t always feel like it. Or even that he may grow through it and out of it.

No, I don’t think there are any sexuality issues there. I’ve always made it clear to them I’m open to everything and he’s tended to show more interest in girls. He has his own style (gothish) so I don’t think he’s scared to show what he is.

I know that many times he does understand how this affects us and how his loss would tear us open. But when he’s in the depths of despair I think it then becomes all about him. So at the moment all that matters to him is probably his own experience
Alison, I do hope that even though the 'glimmer of hope' psych isn't NHS, that you could still engage him for your son if he does seem to be 'connecting' at all? If he isn't 'allowed' to be in the hospital, can YOU talk to him directly I wonder, about your son, to get his 'take' and hopefully even analysis and advice that could be relayed back to the psychs in the hospital? I don't really know how the interaction between the private and NHS system works alas. But it seems idiotic for the NHS side not to work with someone who seems possibly to be pointing towards a breakthrough approach to your son?

I was glad to hear that he is having schooling, as I was wondering about this. Not just in a practical sense of 'what does he do all day?' but also because it hopefully diverts his troubled thoughts? Are there subjects he takes to more than others? For example, if, say he were focussed on music, or maths, or arts, etc etc, those might be more 'human-free' subjects (eg, as opposed to literature or history, which are obviously 'all about people' and therefore might be more challenging to him?)

It does sound from your description of him that he is very 'internalised' and 'withdrawn', as if everything is just going round and round and round inside his poor head....

Not sure if you've seen this, or indeed if it is the slightest good, but there is an article this morning on the BBC website (ironically, today is World Suicide Prevention Day...) which might, I hope, be a little encouraging for you....

https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/ ... 468d100ad8

I thought it revealing that the guy's problems started at 12....it does seem that as children become 'aware' of themselves in the world 'objectively' it is a time when trauma can arise, let alone with an external trauma as happened in the case of the man in the article.