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Topic: Sudden change

19 posts, 0 answered
  1. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    9 November 2020

    My wife and I are pensioners. Our son, who is nearly 40, lives with us.

    Up until a few months ago, he lived a relatively normal life. Then he became mentally ill. He spends nearly all his waking hours talking to us about something that happened when he was five years old. He just keeps on repeating the same story. All his friends and relatives have blocked him on social media because of his ranting. This only makes things worse because he desperately wants people to listen to him. We have told him that he needs to see a physiatrist but he doesn't think that he has a problem. We listen to him without arguing because that would cause him to become loud and verbally abusive. It's difficult for us to live a normal life. We go out as much as possible for a break. We love him and feel powerless to help him.

  2. uncut_gems
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    uncut_gems avatar
    351 posts
    9 November 2020 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket,

    Welcome to the forums. I'm so glad you thought to come here and post; this sounds like a very distressing situation. I think you are absolutely right that he should see a mental health professional. Can I ask if the story has any basis in reality, or sounds familiar to you? Have you tried just sitting and listening to him, even if the story is bizarre or improbable? It may help him at least feel more calm and less scared. In either case, I think he should talk to someone about it who can help him.

    I am not a mental health or medical professional but I do know that becoming fixated on certain things, only being able to talk and think about them, and having delusions (if indeed that's what is going on) can be a sign of a serious problem. Of course, the fact that your son is a fully grown adult makes things a bit more complicated, especially because he can push back more on any intervention you try to make. Still, he is your child and needs care.

    I would encourage you to do everything in your power to get him seen by a doctor, while trying to respect his agency, safety, and dignity. Start by letting him talk it out and assure him that you understand the story he is telling and that it is not being dismissed out of hand. We are always here for you on the forums as you make your way through this tough time.

    Warmly,

    Gems

    1 person found this helpful
  3. uncut_gems
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    9 November 2020 in reply to uncut_gems
    I also want to add that it sounds like you are doing everything you can to be caring parents while looking after your own mental health in the middle of a very difficult situation. Your son may not know it or be able to appreciate it at this moment, but he is very, very lucky to have parents like you.
  4. Picket
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    8 posts
    15 November 2020 in reply to uncut_gems

    Thank you for your understanding.

    We've found that the best way to handle the situation is to just listen to him, without interruption and with the occasional agreement to what he's saying. After a while, he calms down and even thanks us for listening to him.

    He thinks that it would be demeaning to see a psychiatrist so I've suggested that he see a doctor who could prescribe antidepressant medication, because he often talks about self harm.

  5. uncut_gems
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    15 November 2020 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket,

    I think that sounds like a good temporary solution. If you can get your son to agree to see a GP, that would be a great next step. In order for him to be seen by a psychiatrist, he would need a referral from a GP anyway. Do your best to frame the appointment as in his best interest, not demeaning, etc. Please feel free to keep us up-to-date here on the forums or stick around to keep chatting if you like. We aren't going anywhere :)

    Best,

    Gems

  6. Summer Rose
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    16 November 2020 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    Thank you for sharing your story. Sounds like something is definitely going on with your son and I think it's really important to find out what it is.

    I would start by suggesting your son visit his GP. If he makes a double appointment it will give them time to have a good discussion of the issues.

    The GP can then determine the next best steps to take to help your son. This might be a referral to a mental health practitioner or any number of things.

    I know you love your son and that this change in him must be hard to watch. Hang in there. And don't hesitate to post again.

    Kind thoughts to you

    1 person found this helpful
  7. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    9 December 2020 in reply to Picket

    Update.

    We've had to call the police on several occasions since this started because his verbal outbursts were getting worse. We spent several nights in motels just to get some peace. The last time that we arrived home from a motel, he was extremely abusive, so we left home and called the police. They took him away and put an intervention order on him, which he breached, so they locked him up. He will have been in remand for three weeks by the time his court case is heard. We're hoping that they will pick up on his mental condition.

    The police have always been very good with the way that they handle the situation, but they're not equipped to deal with someone with a mental illness.

    It appears to us that there is no law that forces a person to be treated for mental illness unless they agree to it.

    Now we're just waiting to see what happens in court.

    1 person found this helpful
  8. Summer Rose
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    10 December 2020 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    I'm really sorry to hear about the developments with your son. I imagine that you must be experiencing a wide range of emotions, from sadness to grief to anger to worry to guilt, and I'm really sorry. I appreciate that this is very difficult for all of you and that you have done the best you can in these very difficult circumstances.

    I'm curious to know if the police asked you if you believed there was a mental health issue at play? I'm asking because it's a shame that your son was not diverted into the mental health system before he entered the legal system (unfortunately this is not uncommon). My concern is that there will now be a presumption in court that he's a criminal, not a mentally unwell person. But it may still be possible for you to influence the situation.

    This is just my opinion, but if it were me, I would reach out to your son's legal representative. I'm assuming he will be represented by legal aid? I would tell his representative that you:

    • have had concerns about your son's mental health for some time
    • have tried to encourage him to seek treatment
    • you didn't know what to do when his behavior escalated and became abusive, so you naturally turned to the police for help
    • however, you still strongly believe he needs to be assessed for a potentially serious mental illness.

    See what the lawyer says. He/she may be able to assist.

    Given the IVO, I can't see that your son will be released into your custody. Have you asked the police where they think he may end up next?

    No pressure to answer my questions, but happy to keep talking.

    Kind thoughts to you

    1 person found this helpful
  9. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    11 December 2020 in reply to Summer Rose

    The police did take him to the psych unit at the hospital where he stayed overnight, then released him in the morning. I've heard that some patients can put on a sane face when they need to, to get released from the hospital. I'm sure that he would be capable of that. His lawyer has told me that she is getting advice from a psychiatrist. I'm hoping that the judge will make him get treatment, rather than convict him of criminal offenses.

  10. Summer Rose
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    11 December 2020 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    I'm sorry to hear that your son was prematurely released from the psych ward.

    It should have been an opportunity to avoid the current legal mess and help your son. But the system doesn't always work the way I wish it would. And it's my understanding that unless someone poses an imminent risk to themself or others they cannot be kept for long against their will.

    I'm glad the lawyer will be seeking advice from a psychiatrist, as breaching an IVO is a serious criminal matter. Your son clearly needs help. A fine or jail term is not going to solve the root problem.

    I know you are worried about your son, and so am I, but I'm also concerned about you and your wife. Because the reality is that you both need to be kept safe and I'm sure the situation is taking a toll.

    How are you coping? Eating and sleeping okay? I would like to encourage you to call the bb support line if you feel you need to talk to someone. Counselling services are available 24/7 on 1300 22 4636. Your GP is also a good source of support.

    Do you know how your son is feeling now? Any family had contact?

    Kind thoughts to you

    1 person found this helpful
  11. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    11 December 2020 in reply to Summer Rose

    Thanks again for your support.

    My wife and I are okay, but we do think about our son all the time. We tried to contact him in remand but they wouldn't allow it because we're not on his list of contacts. At the moment, he wants nothing to do with us because he thinks that we betrayed him to the police. He hates the police.

    Our GP has been supportive.

    1 person found this helpful
  12. Summer Rose
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    1546 posts
    12 December 2020 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    So glad to hear you are getting support from your GP. This community is always here for you, too.

    You are doing all the right things and I just encourage you to hang in there. It might take some time before you can meaningfully engage with your son. Remember, he's unwell.

    I have an adult child with a mental health condition. When she first fell ill 9 years ago, she was terribly unwell (and treated in a psych ward) but with the right treatment she has reached a state of recovery and learned to manage her condition. It really can get better.

    Post any time. Kind thoughts to you

    1 person found this helpful
  13. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    2 March 2021 in reply to Summer Rose

    Release from prison, after nearly three months, incarcerated. My son said that the prisoners had a day taken off their sentence for every day served because of the covid restrictions imposed on them. The judge released him on the condition that he report to corrections. . My wife and I don't know what conditions that corrections will impose on him. We hope that there will be some psychiatric help.

    He's living with us again, and so far, he hasn't been a problem for us. He still talks nonsense sometimes but keeps it brief. He was prescribed antidepressants.

    Unfortunately, he spends all day and night in his room. He's not interested in anything, even watching TV. He posts online about how bored he is.

    1 person found this helpful
  14. Summer Rose
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    2 March 2021 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    Nice to hear from you again.

    It must be a relief to have your son out of jail. I’m sure that you and your wife have had quite a difficult time dealing with worry and anxiety for his welfare. Hopefully this moment can be the start of a more positive chapter in your lives.

    The prescription for antidepressants suggests that he’s had some mental health care, which is great. Do you know if he takes the medicine? Is anyone treating him at present? Does he have a diagnosis?

    No pressure to answer here, but I’m hoping that he is sharing information with you.

    I’m wondering if you think it would help to seek family counselling at this point. You’ve all been through a highly distressing ordeal and it might help to talk about it and discuss the future as a family.

    I suggest this because your son’s current lifestyle isn’t healthy or sustainable—and I know you know that. He must be lonely and somewhat adrift without the sense of purpose one gets from work or study. And things like exercise, hobbies and social connections are vital to our wellbeing.

    I’m not a doctor, just a mum that does her best to care for an adult child with a mental health condition, but my gut tells me that your son would probably benefit from professional mental health support right now. From my experience, recovery is not often a straight and simple line from A to B. And transitions can be really hard.

    Given he’s 40 and living in your home, I think it would be reasonable to make family counselling a condition of his continued living with you. Particularly as all of you want to avoid a repeat of past experiences.

    If you can get him to go you might get some valuable insight into what he’s dealing with and have the opportunity to influence and support his path to recovery. Just something for you to consider.

    It might also be prudent for you and your wife to agree on a plan of action should the situation deteriorate. For example, you may choose to call an ambulance to ensure he gets a proper mental health assessment. You may also want to make a list of relevant emergency numbers. You may want to identify an alternative place for him to live.

    I’m not trying to be negative, it’s just easier to prepare a crisis plan with cool clear thinking before you’re actually in the crisis.

    Kind thoughts to you

    1 person found this helpful
  15. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    20 May 2021 in reply to Summer Rose

    Hi Summer Rose,

    Our son is still living with us. Part of his release conditions was that he had to get a mental health plan from a GP, which he has. The GP gave him a referral to a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, all this takes time. He also has video appointments with corrections so they can check on him. He still comes and talks to us about nonsense now and then. This usually involves saying how badly all his friends and relatives ( including us ) have treated him. He swears a lot, which is out of character, in our family, and has said that he will kill them all. We don't take his threats seriously because he has never been a violent person. I think it is his way of trying to get people to listen to him.

    He says his family and friends have treated him badly because they have all blocked home on social media, email, and phones. They did this when he was at his worse, ranting about nonsense. Now he's very lonely. His brother and sister have spoken to him on the phone, which helps.

    We find it very difficult to talk to him or try and change his way of thinking, so we usually just listen. This can be for hours at a time. We hope that it helps him to have someone listen to him. Seeing a counselor would probably help him but a counselor once told his wife to have nothing to do with him and she is long gone.

    His only social activity is to go to a club and play the pokies occasionally. The problem with this is that it's very expensive (he gets a small amount of money from the government), the people who play the pokies are not very sociable, and we can't join him because we live on the pension.

    1 person found this helpful
  16. Sophie_M
    Community Moderator
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    Sophie_M avatar
    5908 posts
    20 May 2021 in reply to Picket
    Hi Picket,

    We appreciate you reaching out for support, as it sounds like you are in a very difficult situation at the moment with your son. We can understand that you may feel as though he doesn’t have the capacity for physical violence, however considering his marked change in behaviour and his verbal violence towards you we feel there is potential for unpredictable and potentially dangerous behaviour. We encourage you to reach out to your local police station or his corrections officer to report his threats so they can be made aware of his escalating behaviour.
     
    In the interim, for support for yourself and your son, our beyond blue support team are available 24/7 by phone on 1300 22 4636 or on Webchat 1pm-12am AEDT on our website: www.beyondblue.org.au/getsupport. One of our professional mental health counsellors at our Support Service will give you support and point you in the right direction for help in your area.
     
    In addition we would strongly urge that you contact 1800RESPECT. They offer confidential information, counselling and support 24/7 for people impacted by family violence and abuse. The lovely supportive counsellors have a lot of experience offering advice to support to families  who have been through trauma like this. You can contact them on 1800 737 732 or https://www.1800respect.org.au/
     
    If you ever feel as though you are unsafe within your home environment, or his behaviour becomes erratic, we would encourage you to contact 000 right away.  Please continue to reach out for support to our community during this difficult time.
     
    2 people found this helpful
  17. Summer Rose
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    1546 posts
    20 May 2021 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    Lovely to hear from you again.

    Your son is really lucky to have you and your wife in his corner. It's extremely hard to listen to someone who is unwell "talk nonsense" (I have done this many times myself), so please know that I applaud the care, patience and concern you are giving your son.

    However, I'd be less than truthful if I didn't also say that I'm worried about you. Like Sophie, I also would not take his threats to kill people casually. This is because your son is experiencing an undiagnosed and untreated mental disorder.

    There really is no way for you to know what risk he presents to you, others or himself, and I know from personal experience that when people are seriously unwell they can act in ways that are totally out of character, unexpected, hurtful and even violent. I also don't believe that just because your son has never been violent in the past that he won't be in the future. This is because he is now unwell and none of us know how serious his condition might be.

    I think Sophie has made some really good suggestions. I have two additional thoughts. First, I would call the psychiatrist's office and inform them specifically that your son has made threats to kill. Ask if you can get him in to see the psychiatrist sooner or ask them to tell you what they would suggest you do.

    Second, I encourage you to talk to your son about how it makes you feel when he "talks nonsense" for hours on end. If I were in your shoes, I would do this when he isn't highly agitated. I would explain that his behaviour really worries you and it appears to be a signal that he is experiencing an episode of acute illness. Ask him if you could plan to call ambulance for him the next time it happens. I'm thinking that a professional assessment when he's displaying those symptoms might be helpful.

    My last thought is for your and your wife. I'm wondering if you two might go to see a counsellor to seek advice on how to manage your son in your home. I did this when my daughter was really unwell and found it to be enormously beneficial. I would tell the counsellor what was happening at home and she would give me strategies and ideas on how to respond. She was sort of like a coach because while I desperately wanted to help my daughter I needed to learn how and I needed to better understand her illness (OCD).

    None of this is easy but you are not alone. Hang in there.

    My kindest thoughts to you

    1 person found this helpful
  18. Picket
    Picket avatar
    8 posts
    3 August 2021 in reply to Summer Rose

    Good news. It's been a while since my last post and there's been a big improvement in our son's mental health in that time. In the last few months he's been completely normal. We weren't expecting this.

    He sees a counselor once a week and we get on well with him. He doesn't have any friends and the relatives still don't talk to him, because he "burnt all his bridges" when he was unwell.

    We keep an eye on him, knowing that he might slip back into the way he was, but so far, so good.

    My wife and I have been able to have a normal life and we have our son back.

    Thanks again for your support.

  19. Summer Rose
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    1546 posts
    3 August 2021 in reply to Picket

    Hi Picket

    Thanks so much for sharing your good news. It really does mean a lot to me that you took the time to post.

    I’m so pleased that your son is feeling better, getting the right care and that you have your lives back. I know it was hard for you, but your love and support got your boy through. What a blessing!

    Kind thoughts to you

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