My son, early-20s, has graduated from university. During COVID-19, he’s been working at home for a boring job unrelated to his education, skills or interests.
He has two younger brothers but he was closest to me growing up, especially after his mother and I divorced. He only sees her occasionally. He’s joined me for years in many athletic interests in which he actually excels but has never felt good enough at anything.
He’s got a roommate but sometimes stays with me. He’s not a relaxed guy - he gets angry easily and puts himself down a lot. He finds fault with his looks, doesn’t have a partner, and seems to carry much deeper insecurities that worry me.
When I’ve tried to get him talking openly, he’s made some statements such as feeling worthless, or asks what’s the use of all his skills when his life is just boring tedium. I’m worried about where these thoughts may take him, but afraid to suggest he needs therapy. What do you advise?
Mental health experts have been aware throughout the pandemic that many young people - from children into early adulthood - have suffered increased anxieties, fears, and among older youth, even hopelessness. regarding their future.
Missing socialization, bored and mentally fatigued from working/studying online while isolated from sports and other recreation, everything feels bleak to those who internalize the current stressors.
While it’s evident that your son should seek therapy, it may be wise and helpful for you to set the example by going yourself.
You’d be doing what therapists call “normalizing” the idea of seeking professional help, rather than his reaction of continuing alone with negative feelings of self-doubts and despair.
Given the good relationship you have, your son can learn from what you discover. By sharing that you have some of your own vulnerability - even if it’s your worry about your children - the trust between you two will hopefully encourage his seeking mental health help.
“There’s so much crisis happening among youth,” says
Sari Goldman, M.S.W., R.S.W., a therapist for adults and couples.
She advises, “If the concern is there, ask the questions: ‘Are you okay? How can I best support you right now? I’m here for you, I love you and I’m worried about you.’
“Add this: ‘If you don’t want to talk to me, may I help connect you with a professional,’ offering to cover the cost or find a therapist, steps which may feel overwhelming to someone in crisis.”
Be aware that it might take time for your son to open up. “Acknowledging him, validating, patience and understanding are key,” she says.
Meantime, not every negative thought is a crisis. Goldman notes there are techniques therapists teach that can help young people learn to “ride the wave” of their anxiety, tolerate it, get through it and realize that they’ve come out the other side okay. However, anyone who’s concerned about themself or a loved one should seek help immediately. Call a helpline to connect you with professional help as fast as possible, starting with 911.
Check www.Canada.ca for distress centres and/or crisis services such as Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 pm to 12 am ET).
Or Kids Help Phone, call 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free) or text CONNECT to 686868. It’s available 24 hours a day to Canadians aged 5 to 29 who want confidential and anonymous care from professional counsellors.
FEEDBACK Regarding the mother upset that her daughter, 24, won’t share her trust-fund money with her divorcing, financially-strapped parents (May 13):
Reader – “There are many unknown factors. Perhaps this couple has mismanaged their finances, lived beyond their means, been irresponsible with their money, etc... the possibilities are endless.
“Their daughter may see this request for the trust fund money, which is legally hers, as enabling them further if she were to dispense the account to them.
“Lawyers are usually very clear when setting up trust funds regarding their limitations. I also don’t understand why an inheritance that belonged to the grandmother was deposited into the trust.
“I think there’s a LOT more to this story! The daughter may have a point.”
Ellie - There are always unknown factors in the letters people write. I sense some as clear possibilities and state them, but I won’t just guess regarding complex legal/financial matters.
Tip of the day:
With so many youth feeling pandemic mental-health stress, a close parent/confidante can help by listening, encouraging therapy, and reacting quickly to any alarms.