Strained Relations

Strained Relations: Help for Struggling Parents of Troubled Teens

Archive for the ‘mentally ill son’ Category

How to Listen to Disclosure of Family Estrangement or Difficulties

Posted by Marcia on March 2, 2011

In my last post I wrote about the process of deciding to share difficult information about one’s family. This post is devoted to receiving this information.

Some of the richest and most heartfelt conversations I have had have been when someone decides to confide in me or when another person listens to my story.

When your family member or friend is having family problems and decides to share these issues with you, it takes a lot of courage, hope and trust that you will not judge, will listen carefully, offer help if asked, will not gossip. This is a confidential and difficult conversation.

Truly listening means that you turn off distractions: this is not a time for watching TV, texting and taking calls. Turn off your phone and give that person your attention. Listen with your head and your heart. Don’t ask a lot of questions, just a few to clarify the situation if needed.

Don’t change the topic unless you’re very uncomfortable hearing this news, and if you are, it’s better to just say you’re uncomfortable.

This conversation is about the other person, not you and your family, unless you’ve experienced a similar situation. Then it’s appropriate to share but limit your input: this person has a lot to say.

Be private and confidential. If the person wanted all of the family and friends to know, there are many ways to alert everyone. It can hurt the person’s feelings if you talk about this to others and damage your own credibility as a confidante.

Don’t judge the people involved. You’re hearing a part of the story and you’re hearing it for the first time. It may be shocking news, but all of it is in the realm of the human condition: the things that happen to people and the decisions we make.

Ask if there is anything you can do to help and provide resources if you have them. One woman called me regarding her son and after listening to her story, I asked if she wanted resources or how I could best help her. She was looking for resources and I gave her a few places to start, indicating there were additional resources in my book and on the blog if she needed them. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re already dealing with a stressful situation. I also keep in touch, ask how things are going, and remember her on Mother’s Day and Christmas, two really hard holidays for her.

When you see or talk with the person in the future, ask about his or her child. I know from personal experience that the concern people show is helpful. It helps me to know that they haven’t forgotten I am a parent, and birthdays and some holidays in particular are really difficult.

Keep in touch and show concern and compassion. That’s the best way you can help anyone.

Posted in adopted kids, apology, behavior of someone using drugs, changing parent's behavior, cope at the holidays, defiant adopted kids, enabler, enabling, estranged, estranged from dad, estranged from father, estranged from parents, family difficulties, FASD, feelings about Father's Day, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, file restraining order against son, forgiveness, juvenile hall, kid on meth, listen to family problems, mental illness, mentally ill son, mentally ill teen, meth addict, missing our son, Mother's Day avoid, Mother's Day dread, Mother's Day sadness, orders of protection, orders of protection against son, out of control teens, Parents and teens, repaired relationship, restraining orders, return adopted child, rewarding good behavior, sadness at the holidays, signs of drug use, step-parent, teen and addiction, teen intervention, teens and consequences, Troubled teens, truancy, truancy and penalties, violence in mentally ill people, worried parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Do you know the next Jared Lee Loughner?

Posted by Marcia on January 24, 2011

I haven’t posted for awhile as I wanted time to mull over the January 8, 2011 shooting in Arizona.

Like many people, I feel that the yelling and disrespect shown to others creates a climate in our society that is not only unpleasant: it’s dangerous.

That said, I do not hold anyone responsible for this shooting except Jared Lee Loughner, the 22 year old charged in this shooting that killed 6 people and injured 14 others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

As the news unfolded, we began to get a clearer picture of Jared and his mental illness. The life incidents that happened to Jared would, in an emotionally and mentally healthy person, be a chance to demonstrate resilience, to learn and grow from being hurt, being fired, being rejected.

Jared’s parents are Randy and Amy Loughner, an apparently very private couple: even their neighbors didn’t know them and no friends have come forward. Jared dropped out of high school and started developing behavioral problems with a change in his personality. (It is logical to assume his problems led to his dropping out of school, but I don’t know this as fact.)

High school classmates saw his life unraveling: he abused drugs and alcohol and his behavior and conversations became bizarre. A friend’s father felt uncomfortable around him, friends turned away.

Court records indicated he had 2 offenses in 2007 for possession of drug paraphernalia and defacing a street sign, and he completed diversion programs for each.

In 2008, the U.S. Army rejected Jared as “unqualified” for service. During the application process, he had admitted to marijuana use on numerous occasions.

Jared started taking classes at Pima Community College, and from February to September 2010, campus officers talked to him on 5 occasions as he was disruptive in class and at the library. A teacher and a classmate indicated they were fearful he would commit a school shooting.

In September 2010, college police discovered his YouTube video in which he said the college was illegal according to the United States Constitution. He was asked by administrators to leave school and return only if he obtained a mental health clearance. They wanted a professional to say that Jared did not pose a danger to himself or others.

Jared had a job at Quiznos but was fired: the manager said Jared had a change in his personality. Jared volunteered at an animal shelter but was asked not to return.

Even with this pattern of deep problems, rejections, being fired, being told he needed help, Dr. Laura Nelson, deputy director for behavioral health at the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the state had no record of Jared seeking mental health treatment in the public system.

The night before the shooting, he left a message on his friend’s voicemail along with a Myspace post saying goodbye.

With all the signs: problems at high school and community college, drugs, drinking, being fired from a job and volunteer work, rejection by the Army, disturbing private texts and public videos, friends and parents of friends seeing problems – how is it there was no help for Jared?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thinking a lot about all of the people murdered and wounded that day and the ongoing trauma to their families. I’m also thinking that if Jared had professional help, this may have been prevented.

One interview with a psychologist was asked about Jared’s parents, and she said there could be a few scenarios at home but we’re not sure what happened. In some similar cases, there is mental illness in one or both of the parents. Another possibility is that the parents took him to therapists but he stopped at some point. The final option is that the parents didn’t know what to do, were at the end of their rope, maybe they were afraid of him.

I don’t know what was happening in Jared’s home and none of us know that part of the puzzle.

Just three years earlier at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (“Virginia Tech”), Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many other people before he committed suicide. Some of his history seems similar to Jared’s. The Virginia Tech Review Panel said Virginia Tech administrators failed to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties. The panel also pointed out gaps in mental health care and privacy laws that left Seung-Hui’s condition untreated.

Wouldn’t you think that following Seung-Hui Cho’s rampage, all schools would be alerted to do more to protect the greater society? Sometimes the schools have to step in when the parents can’t or won’t.

It’s surprising that we haven’t seen more shootings like this. Unless we deal frankly and effectively with the heart of the problem, we are all endangered. A percentage of our population is seriously mentally ill and they are underserved with resources. Family and friends do not always know how to help, when to report someone, where to turn.

Some of the parents who find my book and blog and write to me need to stop and think about their own kids. Is there something you need to act on or are they facing normal teenage angst? There is also a difference between the angry teen who yells and punches the wall versus the mentally ill teen who is rambling incoherently and has inappropriate verbal outbursts.

If you’re seeing bizarre behavior, when that’s combined with drugs and/or alcohol, when your child’s friends drift away or if you have warnings from school, you must take action.

If your child’s friend is going down that path or your student is acting in a bizarre fashion, use the resources at hand. Don’t be afraid to speak up: you may be saving the life of that child and the lives of others.

I have a list of resources on my blog and encourage you to review the list, make the call if you need to on behalf of your child or your child’s friend.

Posted in enabler, enabling, family difficulties, Jared Lee Loughner, mental illness, mentally ill son, mentally ill teen, out of control teens, violence in mentally ill people, worried parents | 5 Comments »

 
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