When Your Adult Child Breaks Your Heart

Coping with mental illness, substance abuse, and the problems that tear families apart

Is Your Child Dangerous?

Some parents may fear that their mentally ill son or daughter could become violent. This is a terrifying and often numbing admission, but should be addressed without delay. Learn more about how to recognize the warning signs and best assist your family when you fear that your child has the potential to harm someone. Read More

Couldn't it be said that in

Couldn't it be said that in the case of Gus Deeds, his father did everything right and the system failed? My understanding is that Sen. Deeds recognized the danger and took him to be hospitalized and the professionals sent him home, presumably with the diagnosis that he was not an imminent danger, (with instructions to visit a group home the next day.) As a follow up, what should a parent do if they feel their child is dangerous and the system disagrees or claims there are no beds available, putting the option of hospitalization out of reach? Realize this is practically an impossible question, just wondering if you have any advice.

Thank you for reading, and

Thank you for reading, and for your thoughtful comment.
There are absolutely times when the system can fail, as it is far from perfect. With regard to the lack of beds issue, if medical personnel perceive an individual to be a threat, they are obligated to find a bed. As far as individuals being released from the hospital as a "non-threat," parents finding themselves in this impossible situation should not be shy about contacting the police. The authorities will be obligated to assess the situation and may force a re-evaluation of the individual. It is a tenuous process but sometimes even in the time that he or she is being held for evaluation, time is bought and the imminent threat may lift.


Why do we always focus on the child as opposed to the parents and the surrounding environment? I would propose that Gus had always had some form of love/hate relationship with his father. I know nothing about this case but to hold a position of Senator would broadly hint towards the Senator being heirarchical, authoritarian and controlling. When we look at these qualities in a psychological context we find they are the qualities posessed by psychopaths and narcissists that seem to be deemed to be acceptable in a social context. As Gus was seen to be a gifted child I would suggest that he was more highly aware of his emotions and inner conflicts. This is far too complex to go into detail here and it would be generalizing as opposed to specific to this case - however from my observation the same general patterns do have a tendency to play out over and over again. The simple answer though, is to look at the bigger picture. As adults we tend to hold a bias towards the adult is right the child is wrong, the adult is good the child is bad, the adult is mentally healthy the child is mentally ill. What if adults are mistaken? What if the child is generally right, generally good and generally mentally healthy and the parents have somehow muddled through life, appearing to be successful whilst hiding or suppressing their own dark and murky secrets and then projecting them onto their children? What if the adults are unaware of their own unresolved internal issues? From personal observations it is very clear to me that what we generally consider to be 'normal' and 'functional' is actually highly dysfunctional and abusive and there are many others (albeit a minority within the scheme of things) that are capable of seeing the collective psychosis of the human condition.

To Helen

Dear Helen,

I am the parent of a teenager whom I believe is on a trajectory to a violent, disturbed life. My highly educated husband and I adopted him at age 2 and he displayed disturbing signs from the beginning. We have done everything and more to stop "nature". We are paying for expensive private speech, school and therapies. We have tried to connect him with other positive peers, sports, music, and taken trips to the theater, foreign lands. We eat all meals as a family, spend lots of time playing games. My husband and I both come from nice families. I have spent the past 14 years reading up nearly every day on ADHD, Autism, PTSD, Attachment Disorder. I have spent thousands of hours working with schools, teachers, behavioraists. I do not feel we are winning the battle.

Is it the environment in some cases? Perhaps, however in many cases, these families are struggling every day, for years, trying to help their biologcially "off" child get on the right path. To blame the families is to really show your ignorance about the realities of raising a child with a mental illness. It is a nightmare. One, I fear, I will never escape.

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Joel Young, M.D., who teaches psychiatry at Wayne State University, is the Medical Director of the Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine, near Detroit.


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