I have a 15 year old son who seems very depressed to me and has been so to some degree since the age of 13. His father and I separated earlier this year and he had to live with both of us all last year knowing that we were eventually going to split up. He doesn't see much of his father [who lives nearby], who is an emotionally absent man who had problems in his own childhood which perhaps explain his lack of commitment towards his own children now. My son has poor self-image, especially now in the middle of adolescence. He professes not to mind about his father and I, unlike his sister I have never seen him cry or express anger or particular distress at what has happened. However, he is changing before my eyes. He has always been a quick-tempered child, can't cope easily with the every-day frustrations and disappointments, but this has got worse the last few weeks. He seems cold and hard and has started being verbally abusive to me in the way his father was, he says he's fed up with feeling like he does, he has isolated himself, barely leaves the house when he's in it and has no social life at all out of school, it's TV and the Internet, any suggestion to do anything else is resolutely refused. He's clearly unhappy and bored and doesn't like himself much, and even says at times that he doesn't know how I can put up with him. We've always had a good relationship before this but I am seriously worried now and don't know best how to handle this correctly.
Some problems are beyond our capacities as parents to manage independently. You would be helping your son considerably by arranging a mental health evaluation. I agree with you that, in addition to the stressor of what has occurred n the family, he may well be displaying a mood disorder which requires treatment. He could well profit from treatment with an antidepressant medication (e.g., Celexa, Paxil) and therapy. It's a good sign that even he is very cognizant of his state, that it is not pleasant, and that it must be hard for others to live with him. These indications support the possibility that he will be motivated to cooperate with the help you can arrange.
I should add that I took my son to a child psychologist last year, at my suggestion and with his agreement. After an initial assessment, she didn't feel he needed regular counselling and saw him 4 times over a 6-month period, just to chat basically. She said he was a "magnificent" young man, very lucid and articulate, which she found surprising as teenagers often have great difficulty expressing how they feel, boys in particular. When my son was younger and had such violent outbursts of temper, such excessive reactions really, I did wonder if this would develop into a full-blown mental illness later on. There is a history of mental illness and instability in my husband's side of the family and he too suffers from depression but won't admit it, my son seems to feel that he's genetically disadvantaged already. After posting my question I had already decided to see our family GP to begin with, again with my son's agreement, who seems to have no objections to my doing whatever I feel I have to do if it's going to make him feel better in the end.
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