The best way to help your son is to facilitate his consulting a mental health professional. It might be best to choose a professional who specializes in working with teens, preferably teenage boys. Counseling could help him understand what’s wrong and work through whatever is bothering him. Family therapy might also be helpful. Upon your initial consultation, you can discuss whether individual or family therapy (or both) would be the most appropriate treatment.
What you want to avoid, is minimizing his symptoms. Don’t regard them as a “phase.” Recognize that intervention is necessary and do whatever is needed to find him good help.
A recently published book underscores the importance of not minimizing the symptoms of mental illness among teen boys. Sue Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine High School shooters. In her book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, she writes with sincere regret about how she overlooked and minimized the psychological problems of her son. Her son’s problems seemed so normal at the time but we now know that his problems were anything but normal. Dylan was profoundly suicidal and his mother had no idea just how much he was suffering. Most teenagers never act out violently or become school shooters but even so, there is great value in her book. It can help parents recognize teenage depression and its many forms before it’s too late. All proceeds from the book will be donated to mental health charities.
You will be doing your son a great service by facilitating his involvement with mental health professionals. It could mean the difference between him having lifelong psychological problems and his prospering in life. Study after study consistently shows that mental health concerns are as important as those of physical health. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle