Dear Annie: I have a 31-year-old son who has always struggled with mental illness issues. He was diagnosed with depression at age 15 and again in his early 20s when we sent him to a weeklong involuntary residential treatment. He will not stay on medication or go to counseling.
In the meantime, after years of not being able to keep a job, he finally had a good job for two years, which he lost 16 months ago. He moved in with us 10 months ago and has made no effort to search for another job. We gave him a deadline to get a job or move out, because we are nearing retirement age and cannot continue to pay for his living expenses, his car insurance and other bills that come up. It is obvious that he is not going to get a job. We do not want him to be homeless. He has been there before, and I know the outlook on homelessness and those with mental illness is not good. However, we can’t continue to enable him. He can function. What should we do? – Parents at a Crossroads
Dear Parents: I am so sorry that you and your family are struggling with the ongoing battle that is mental illness. As painful as it can be to draw boundaries with our adult children, you said it best: To continue paying all of his living expenses at this point would be to enable him. If he is capable of working, as you stated, then a job could not only help stabilize his housing and finances; it could help with his mental health. Humans thrive with routine.
So let your son know that you will always unconditionally offer your love, but you can’t continue to offer your money. If he is at a loss as to how to get back into the workforce, you can point him toward Individual Placement and Support (https://ipsworks.org). The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that IPS “can help people with mental illness find and keep meaningful jobs, supporting their mental health recovery.”
And lest you think you’re alone in this, please read on.
Dear Annie: I’ve read letters in your column from parents at their wits’ end regarding children’s behavior, whether they’re adolescents or adults.
My son has a personality disorder, and I often have found myself exasperated. I had to call the police twice and take him to the ER once. And I’ve done a lot of praying. I talk to him every night and tried to encourage him. I am always bending over backward. It has been very difficult.
Many things have worked out well for him that previously were sources of stress. We are all still working on it. I’m very thankful to God and my relatives, who gave my son much needed social support. I encourage parents who have written to you in similar situations to keep praying and to contact NAMI. I have done that in the past. And ask family and friends if they can help. – S.B.
Dear S.B.: I’m printing your letter because it touches on such an important point: As important as it is to set boundaries, it’s equally important to reach out to others for support. Caregivers need care given to them, too.
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