Home Depression Need Help for Son

Need Help for Son

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From the U.S.: My son is 20 years old and I fear he is bipolar. He is depressed all the time and never, ever happy. He’s unbelievably negative, argumentative, at times combative, and people find him difficult to be around.

I love him and want to help, but he does not see that there is a problem and refuses to see a doctor.

He gets so depressed at times I fear he may become suicidal. We both work together at a fantastic business, but he’s extremely close to losing his job due to his negative and depressing attitude. Losing this job would be his breaking point. Please tell me how I can help.

I think this is one of the most difficult situations for a parent to manage. At 20, your son is a legal adult. You can’t make him do anything. But, at 20, he isn’t really mature. He isn’t making good decisions, and he isn’t open to hearing loving guidance from a parent who loves him.

He may need to lose the job to get the wake-up call he needs. It would certainly be helpful if the HR department would give him constructive feedback and a probationary period (something you can’t do).

You didn’t mention whether he is still living with you. If so, you may have a bit of leverage. You could, for example, insist that he see a psychiatrist for an evaluation as a condition for staying with you. You could remind your son that an evaluation is just that — an evaluation with some recommendations. He isn’t committing to doing anything differently if he doesn’t agree with the recommendations. But just maybe he’ll get some useful information. You can also make it clear that he must have a job and contribute financially to the household.

It’s hard to watch a kid we love lose a job, alienate friends or generally not take care of himself. But sometimes we do need to take a step back and let natural consequences take place. In the meantime, what you absolutely can do is love him, remind him that you do love him and assure him that you will always do so, even when you think he is making a mistake.

I wish you both well,
Dr. Marie

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