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16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

I have been struggling with my only child for a year now. He has General Anxiety Disorder , ADHD and Depression which has only presented itself in the last year. Previously was confident and always did well at school up until a year ago and currently still at school failing. He is seeing a psychiatrist and psychologist regularly and is on anti psychotic medication, anti depressant medication (SNRI) and ADHD medication. There is no significant event which has caused his descent into mental health problems. He says it is accumulative, possibly herediatry as it is in our family.

He has been hospitalised once last year during a psychotic episode  and stayed over night as he was having suicidal thoughts. I have had calls from his friends parents at all hours recently as he has said he is having suicidal thoughts. No plan, but thoughts and methods. He has self harmed several times.  Our psychiatrist also referred him to Early Psychosis as Headspace but they said he wasnt entering early psychosis so went back to psychiatrist. 

He has always been against drugs and now I know he has taken marijuana several times and is lying to me about his whereabouts and why he smells of smoke and trying to hide it. He has had several girlfriends but he likes to wear their tops , nail polish , and has just pierced his ears and lip against my wishes, dyed his black hair peroxide blonde/orange and wears smudged black eyeliner to go out and identifies with "emo" subculture.  Music is about suicide, anti depressants and self harm. I spend all day worried sick about him and stressing whether it be suicidal thoughts, or him being hurt by others dressing "against the norm", not knowing where he is except he is lying , and drugs are now in the mix together with all of his medication as his girlfriend just broke up with him.   Does anyone have any advice for me? My husband says we have to back off now and let him come back to us as close family who have spoken to our son has said he wants us to back off and leave him alone. I dont know what to do and now i dont enjoy my own life any more...all day my stomach has butterflies and I am anxious , my husband says I dont smile any more and wants me back...I am seeing a counsellor too but to no avail so far..My happiness is tied up with my son's...



Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Hi @Tuc,

Welcome to the forum.

It sounds like it's been a distressing year for you. Sorry to read things have become so hard.

It is perfectly normal to feel powerless at times like this. Your son is clearly struggling and of course your first instinct as a Mum is want to fix things. Unfortunately he is at an age where he is finding his own identity and that means pulling away from the family for a while. And the hardest thing is you can't fix him. He has to want to take the steps he needs to and work with the help that has been offered.

It sounds like he doesn't want to be parented anymore. It also sounds like you have done pretty much all any Mum can do. You've also resourced him with services and therapists that are out there that can help him when he is ready. 

It's great you have a counsellor. Another service you can try talking to is the Parentline in your State via below link:

But perhaps the most important thing is to take care of yourself. As much as you can, don't let this take over your life. Do things you enjoy doing and find distractions that help you.

Hope things get better for you, and your son.

All the best

Joe The Lion


Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Hello @Tuc and welcome to the Forums.

I’m sorry to hear how difficult things have been this past year, but glad to hear that your son is linked in with some professional support; and you are too.

As @JoeTheLion has said, it sounds like you are doing all you can in providing support and resources for your son. Now it is up to him to reach out when he is ready. I’m pleased to hear that you have a counsellor you are talking to about it – it can take a while to see the impact of counselling, so hopefully it starts to feel helpful soon.

There are lots of other parents here on the Forums who will no doubt relate to parts of your story. @znp has posted about their son here and @Hurting2311 has posted about their daughter here. Others that come to mind are @Faith-and-Hope, @Janna and @Nes.

There are also some social threads on the Forums where you can introduce yourself or have a general chat with other carers:

Hot chocolate anyone?

Introduce yourself here

All the best to you and your son @Tuc. Please keep posting Smiley Happy

Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Hi Tuc

I am saddened to hear of your experience.

You can read my story in the link here:

The link that one of the admin shared to you went instead to a post about my younger son so unfortunately doesn't include all the info that is relevant to your experience. This one might connect more.

A question to ask the psychologist and psychiatrist is whether BPD (borderline personality disorder) is a possibility. The psychotic episode could be related. Our experience has involved a couple of events like this and each time there has been a trauma (or traumas) just before the episode.

My wife and I have found a great deal of support through Helping Minds monthly meetings and, most recently, through attending a course called Family Connections which is for carers of people with BPD. The skills we are learning are, I feel, helpful even when BPD is not diagnosed and it may be worth considering for you and your husband.

I think you are doing everything you can for your son and you need to spend some time on yourself. I know this is hard, I was there, but please take time out for yourself, and with your husband. Bushwalk, go to the beach or river, exercise, read, listen to music, meditate, whatever you can to just "be". My go-to things these days are trail-running, listening to music, Jack Kornfield podcasts and walking with my wife.

Wishing you well. Take care.


Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Hi @Tuc and welcome to the forums ..... 👋

Hi everybody .... 👋


@Tuc ..... my husband entered a midlife crisis of some description several years ago ..... my story is here, if you’re up for a read .....

Eating Disorder -Need a Shoulder

While the most evident aspect appears to be eating disordered behaviour, the more I am learning in our circumstances, it is clear that the traces of what may be multiple disorders have been there since his early 20’s, which was when we married ..... it’s just that none of us recognised the different presentations, and what they meant.

Scroll forward to mid-life crisis point and the disordered behaviours morphed into their current forms, and impacted heavily on me, and the kids who were still at home.  We managed for some time, seeking professional intervention, but none was forth-coming without a diagnosis in place.  My hubby appeared to have embarked on a health makeover, very successfully, and we were unable to be heard ringing the alarm bells in the background and trying to expose hidden, but clearly disordered behaviour.

Progressively our situation has caused mental health issues in our youngest kids, who are now adult, and battling with different presentations of anxiety and depression .... but there is more .... there is a genetic link to a personality disorder, we found when our younger son received an intervention from a mental health team.  Our younger daughter is now in the care of a psychologist as well ..... but while hubby remains undiagnosed, with the most defining behaviours still hidden, I am in a similar position to you ..... how to keep living while your family appears to be falling apart around you ... ?

Heart-sore barely covers it ..... and yeah .... people around me are worried about me having lost my smile .... but I am rediscovering it.

Around three years ago now I took myself off to a psychologist.  I am not unwell per se, but circumstantial depression and panic attacks, along with carer’s burnout are ever-present as a threat to my mental and physical health, and my strongest advice is that you prioritise your own well-being, as sad and selfish as that may feel, or your son’s illness gets to affect the lives of you and your husband as well ..... and that is something I decided to reclaim in our situation.

All I can do is put the best safeguards I can into place .... seek all the professional help, support, understanding and feedback that I can around a continuing absence of diagnosis ..... and choose to live ..... choose to continue being the person I am so I can be a beacon for my family to return to as, inevitably, my husband’s illness surfaces and we all have to row our way through treatment and therapy.

Leaving was not really a choice for us.  There were so many “controls” in place, and my husband so out of touch with our reality that we were very likely to have incurred far greater collateral psychological damage going down that path .... especially with the genetic links that have triggered in some of the kids.  I know that sounds a bit obscure, but there is a form of bonding / enmeshing involved that will be explained to us at some point I guess.

Your husband is standing with you.  Even though you are soul-weary and heart-sore, take his hand and work to find your own purpose in each day, even if mechanical at first.  At the moment your son is the patient.  If your health goes under, your husband will be in the position of trying to manage two patients in his closest relationships.  Keep to your oar and keep rowing ..... your husband is rowing with you .....

We are here to walk along with you.  We hear you ..... we feel for you .... we understand ..... 

if you don’t feel like socialising at the moment because you are in grief, we will be around if you reach a point where you do, but keep pouring your heart out here if it helps and we will sit with you here.




Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Hi @Tuc

I went through the exact same thing with my daughter at age 16, who is now 22 - the suicidal music, drugs, Elmo culture. We believe this was triggered by sexual assault when she was out of care (she ran away as she did not like our rules of not drinking etc underage). She was also bullied and let down by friends at school.

The drugs certainly can trigger (and did in our daughter) erratic behaviour, violent outbursts, depression, anxiety and psychotic episodes - as did the abuse (the latter triggered a suicide attempt). 

She would never talk to us or seek any type of support. We did all we could towards encouraging the latter to help her, but it came to the stage that we had to step back and let her live her life and work it out - letting her know all the time that we loved her, was there for he and to pick up the pieces.

I also put my life on hold as it was tied up in my daughter's happiness and wellbeing - which is normal for us moms but "a major mistake". I found myself going down mentally and becoming quite depressed. My husband also said he wanted his wife back. Although my daughter has improved I now let her live her own life, am there for her but have let go emotionally as much as possible. I no longer put my life on hold waiting for her to get it together. That's what we need to do to look after our wellbeing and happiness and to move forward. Otherwise the whole family can be adversely effected. I concluded she has to live her life, make mistakes and learn by the pitfalls. And I need to get on with my life and personal goals/passions and interests lest I come undone too.

I also set boundaries with my daughter that she couldn't cross and put the consequences to her if she did. It helped her live with us with mutual respect (eventually, I had to put her out a couple of times), but this all helped her to grow up and be a better person. She has improved as has her mental health, but her lifestyle choices still need to improve for further growth. A work in progress but I faith in her that she will get there.

It is important to encourage your son to talk to a psychologist about his inner pain and the issues causing them. Once they start to open up healing can take place gradually. Hope this has helped.

Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Thankyou ZNP. Our psychiatrist believed he was at risk of Early Psychosis /Bipolar last year which is when we entered into the Headspace Early Psychosis program. He met several times with them and his case mgr was fantastic. Eventually he met with the Headspace Psychiatrist together with his case mgr and he was deemed to not be at risk of Early Psychosis, so back we went back to our initial psychiatrist. We will never know what caused this psychotic state. It was soon after taking a new anti anxiety medication for a significant panic attack and it escalated into a night in hospital. We will never know if it was an adverse reaction to a first time medication, or the initial panic attack. Fortunately that hasnt happened since, but every time our family has a significant argument about his behaviour, we can see it escalating. Sometimes I have to then give him an anti psychotic medication to relax him or send him to sleep. So now i am concerned as we have discovered he has used marijuana several times to calm the anxiety and he has always been anti drugs. 

Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

Faith and Hope. Your post made me teary. Yes I do feel like I am falling apart , for no other reason than my son's illness and behaviour. I have cancelled many outtings, don't like to venture far from home in case I get a bad phone call  ,cry all the time, neglect my husbands needs, and become consumed with snooping in his room and messages which confirm he is lying to me . Getting calls or texts from other children's parents late at night to go and check on him if he has been mentioning suicide to friends mean I don't sleep well and check on my phone all night.  I have actually always been a positive happy person . I read your story and see you have multiple people to look after in your family compared to my one. If you are able to look after and enjoy your own life no matter what is falling apart around you then I should be able to as well. thanks for your support.

Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

I feel like I can't parent and discipline anymore. If we try to ground him, he will just get on his bike and leave the house if our house is feeling "toxic" after a major argument. He also says he wants to make his own mistakes, which is like stepping back watching a crash about to happen. So how did you set boundaries ? To take the phone away from them means I suffer, as then he can't be contacted . Grounding doesn't work..we tried that with the marijuana taking discovery and he has since taken it again. So I have a mental illness on my hands plus a full blown rebellion at the moment too for anti establishment ..

Re: 16yo son has suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, identifies with Emo and now he's experimenting drugs

The full-blown rebellion can happen anyway @Tuc whether there is a mental health issue involved or not, and is probably set on his personality type ...... all five of mine (now adult) were oppositional-defiant when pushed, and from early on in life. I found it best to “deal” with them ...... engage their intellect in the discipline process ...... and the word “discipline” literally means teaching ...... so what, exactly, are we trying to teach them ?

As parents we begin to recognis when the actual teaching is done ...... they know how things work, and how they should work best ..... so if it degenerates to a power struggle over authority rather than actual teaching, it’s not a health way to be for any of you ...... and sometimes it takes stopping, and really looking at the dynamics of what is going on, to see what is happening at that level.

This is where it comes back to you ......

Are you looking after yourself ?
Do you have daily routines that also involve managing the running of the house ?
Do you provide meals at a set time of day, with some communication about likes and dislikes ?
Is there a general expectation about keeping communal order, and what is a reasonable time for the household to quieter down for the evening ?

Effectively you are transitioning to an adult house-sharing situation with your son, rather than holding the reigns as a parent.

You can ask him to let you know if he will be joining you for meals, and can he please communicate generally about being out and about, so you aren’t hounding him with phone calls and texts, or worried sick about where he might be ......

Firmly ask him to speak to you respectfullly, which makes it very important that you and your husband remain respectful in talking to him as well ..... and see if that helps to re-set things. If he realises he doesn’t have to take the bit in his teeth to have access to his own independence within the family instead of breaking away from it, things might s tyke a bit more .....

It’s a difficult age of working out how to be an adult ...... what that looks and feels like .... and you having a life outside of the parenting role will help him with that transition. He might feel at the moment that he is responsible for your happiness because if you are not being his mother, you don’t have anything else in life ..... does that make sense ? He needs to see that it’s okay for him to grow into his adult independence ..... and he doesn’t have to rebel like crazy to achieve this.

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