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Straight Talk: Boy bounced school-to-school, feeling suicidal

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: I just picked up my 16-year-old son from a street corner after he was incommunicado for a week. He’s very mixed up, and I need help. Right before freshman year, I moved to LA but he didn’t want to go so he moved to his dad’s in a pretty rough school district. He fell in with a bad group, smoking pot, drinking, and flunking school, so we moved him to LA with me. But he was miserable in LA, so for sophomore year I moved back to the district we had lived in originally hoping he would reacquaint with his grade school friends whom he claimed he missed. That didn’t work either. They “weren’t there for him anymore” and he wanted to live with his dad again. But his dad had remarried and moved to Colorado. Our son lasted there for a few months until they had a blowout and he came back here to live with me, whereupon he wanted to return to the rough school district “where his real friends were.” At a loss, I let him live with a classmate there, driving over weekly to check on him. But, Lauren, he’s flunking school, he’s threatened suicide a few times, and this morning he was really depressed saying his life isn’t worth living. Nothing we do seems to work. We’ve tried counseling, but he’s totally anti-therapy. What should I do? ~ Stockton, CA Katie, 16, Auburn: You must take his suicide remarks seriously! Hopping from place to place, he has no support system. Drugs and alcohol attract a “posse,” not true friends — plus drugs and alcohol are overwhelmingly associated with suicide. Do not let him live outside your house. As for counselors, it me took three years to find one I liked, but I did it. Maureen, 17, Redding: You’re lucky this is happening now. My brother waited for adulthood to get in trouble and now we can’t force him into rehab or therapy. Decide which household he will live in for the next two years and keep him there. Find a therapist he can bond with. Drug test him and put him in rehab if he tests positive. He might resent being controlled but he needs it. Brie, 18, Ashland, OR: I started at a new school freshman year and quickly landed with the wrong crowd, too. I also wanted to move back, but I’m glad I stuck it out. It takes time to make good, quality friends versus the “immediate friend” who cannot be trusted. Kids need boundaries. A 16-year-old should not be living with a friend. Beau, 20, Citrus Heights: At 16, I also had suicidal thoughts. My father was dying, my mother was abusive, there was not a single thing to count on. What saved my life was thinking about the people I loved and everything in front of me. Ashley, 21, Auburn: So what if he’s anti-counseling! Anyone talking about suicide needs help! He is obviously self-medicating with drinking and drugs. Stop letting him move around and take control even if he gets mad at you. You are saving his life! Dear Stockton: Listen carefully. Your son is a “10” on the at-risk scale. You and his dad need to grow a backbone and give your son ONE home — whether he likes the school or not. If he goes AWOL, or continues to mention suicide, do not delay enlisting professional help to escort him to a hospital or psychiatric facility. Don’t join the parents who tragically underestimated their child’s suicide remarks. Such remarks are a primary warning sign. Please call 1-800-SUICIDE. In addition to emergency suicide prevention, this 24/7 confidential hotline will inform you of local short- and long-term care facilities where you son can be evaluated and stabilized. To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit or write P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.