Hello, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 10 years ago, and I am very stable at the moment. I have helped my daughter through her struggles with depression and anxiety. I never expected my son to show any signs of mental illness, because he has always appeared to be so strong and not very emotional at all. He is 19 years old, and after several months of strange, uncharacteristic episodes, he quit his job and walked out. He disappeared and was gone for an entire week while I panicked and did everything I could to find him. I finally got a call from the cops. He was in the emergency room near Atlanta (about 50 minutes from home). He got there without a car, and never called any family member while he was out. The cops picked him up because he was running down the middle of the street in the middle of the night with no shoes on. He was cited for disorderly conduct. He then spent a week and a half in a short term facility. I brought him home two days ago. Diagnosis: psychotic disorder NOS. So now I’m not sure what to do. He has been paranoid, especially with me. He was telling people stories about me wanting to get him thrown in jail. So, my focus now is to get him back on track without too much pressure, because I believe stress had a lot to do with his psychotic break, and I want to make sure he trusts me. I’m afraid if I pressure him, he’ll run again, but how do I make sure he’s taking a shower, and brushing his teeth, taking his meds, ect without sounding like a nag? Because of the episodes in the last few months, he was kicked out of college, completely totaled his car, and is unemployed. He has nothing. How do I keep him from becoming depressed again? I’m also worried about myself. I’ve been hospitalized twice in my life and don’t want to go back because of the stressful situation. What do you suggest?
This is obviously a stressful situation. It’s particularly challenging because your power is limited. You can’t force your son to do things that he does not want to do. Generally speaking, you can’t force people to behave in any particular way.
He’s actively psychotic and seemingly not adhering to any form of treatment. He’s paranoid and the only thing that could cure or eliminate his paranoia, is treatment and or medication. Without medication, his paranoia will probably become worse.
I have three main recommendations. The first is to contact local advocacy groups. The National Alliance For Mental Illness has local organizations in most communities. You can find a local advocacy group in your community by checking their website at www.NAMI.org. Many of the NAMI members are seasoned veterans of the mental health system and may provide you with good advice about how to navigate the system.
The other group you may want to consult is the Treatment Advocacy Center (TAC). TAC is a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping people who have loved ones with a severe mental illness. You can find there website at www.treatmentadvocacycenter.org.
My second recommendation is that you contact your own treating professionals for advice about how to handle the situation. At the very least, they can provide emotional support for you during this difficult time. It’s in your best interest to acquire as much support from friends and family as possible. The more support you have, the better insulated you will be from the stress associated with your son’s problems.
My third recommendation is to contact local mental health professionals, either your son’s previous doctors and/or treatment team or a mental health crisis team. The local mental health crisis team may be especially helpful to you since they can come to your home and evaluate your son’s condition and treat him accordingly. For instance, if they believe that hospitalization is necessary, they can arrange for that to happen.
It is a last resort option but call the police if necessary. If your son is a danger to himself or to others, then do not hesitate to call the authorities. Understandably, you don’t want your son arrested, however, it’s of paramount importance that everyone’s safety is protected. Please don’t hesitate to write again if you have additional questions. I will be glad to help you in any way I can. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle