Psychiatry & Psychology--General/haunting memories


QUESTION: My son who is now 27 attempted suicide in grad school in 2009. Every time I suspect that he is unhappy, having a bad day, or is down I assumed that he's going to try it again. He recently was fired I can tell that he's worried about finding another job. He confides in me on a daily basis. Although I'm glad that we're close it really wears me out but the biggest problem I have is that I dwell on "Is he going to try it again?" It's so bad now that I almost feel numb and disconnected from everybody. Please help me figure this out.

ANSWER: Steph, most people with his background benefit from having a therapist to help develop coping responses that are less extreme and more constructive.

It's wonderful that he's in close contact with you and that you are properly concerned for his welfare, but (and I don't mean this in any negative way) you are not a professional, you are not his therapist, and you are not responsible for his mental health.

If he is willing to form a connection with a clinical psychologist who specializes in teaching coping skills, is would also be helpful for him to know that help in crisis management is right there. If he rejects the suggestion, at least he has you, but he's a full adult now, and while you can be there for him, you are limited in what you can do.

I hope those comments are somewhat helpful, and that he will take the responsibility he should.

Thanks for asking us, and the best of luck with this.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yes he went to a therapist a good while after the attempt and went back to one last week after losing his job. She adjusted his medication, ordered some blood work and scheduled another appointment for next month. He, in my opinion is doing what he needs to be done. I love the fact that he reaches out for help to a professional. I think he uses me to "vent". My problem is on my end...How can I keep from thinking the worse when he's "down". And how can I get out of my feeling numb and disconnected from everybody.

Of course one's offspring takes precedence over one's friends and acquaintances. I would guess that your feelings of disconnection would soon and totally abate if you weren't focusing on the past repeating itself.

I can't offer a magic answer, rather some possibilities to consider.

One option would be to disclose both your positive feelings and your unavoidable concerns to your son. I would suspect that he has little idea of either.

Another would be to ask him if it would be all right with him and with his therapist if you joined him at a few of his sessions, so any problems with your relationship can be resolved.

And a third would be for you to see someone yourself to search for (often a trial-and-error procedure) the answers to your last two questions.


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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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