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Planning Retirement Online


                         March 2010

Maggi Stamp, LaterLife's Relationship Counsellor

Every month Maggi Stamp, a qualified and experienced relationship counsellor for Relate and in private practice, writes about some of the emotional challenges we meet in later life.

For reasons of confidentiality Maggi never writes about a particular person's problems unless you have sent one in to be answered, but all her examples are based on problems raised by clients, family and friends over the years.  

You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.



My son is suffering from depression

Dear Maggi

My 23-year-old son is yet again suffering from depression and lack of confidence. He doesn't want to go to work as he says he can't do it and doesn't want to be there. I had to take him to work myself today. He begged me to let him stay at home and said he would be okay tomorrow. He feels every little mistake he makes is the end of the world. He thinks people think he is stupid and can't cope with anything.

He went through this before about 18 months ago and tried to kill himself. Luckily we found him in time and after a spell in hospital and taking Citalopram he seemed to be improving. He did lower his dose, after consulting with his doctor, do you think this might be why he is feeling so bad again? Am I doing the right thing by making him go to work?


Maggi Replies:-

I imagine you are extremely worried about your son and frightened that he might try to take his own life again. As a parent there can be little worse than watching a son or daughter, at any age, struggling with ill health and deep unhappiness. One of the best things you can do for him is to reassure him that depression is a genuine illness that affects many of us at some point in our lives. It is common but it is an emotionally painful illness, sadly is misjudged by some, who feel they need to see a symptom. Mental illnesses don’t show in this way. It is a characteristic that makes it hard to explain to outsiders.

It is good that your son has work, even though he doesn’t feel he can face it at the moment. Is there any problem at work that is worrying him? Is his boss understanding? Maybe he can talk it through with someone there? I wonder if you took him to work yourself because you were frightened of leaving him at home alone with his unhappy thoughts. Only you and he can decide if taking him is a helpful thing to do. Ask him how he wants to be helped by you. Talking is vital, wherever he does it.

This really is a situation that needs to be discussed with his GP. Your son could be suffering from having lowered his medication, but I am not qualified to decide that. Is he aware of the risks of drinking alcohol at the same time as his anti-depressant? This could have the opposite of the desired effect in some cases and does need to be checked out with his GP. It is also most important that he doesn’t just stop taking his medication. The ‘come-down’ this creates is something to be avoided at all times. The gradual stopping, or changing, anti-depressant medication needs to be supervised by the GP at all times.

You say he is upset if he makes a mistake and expects everyone to judge him and dismiss him. This tells me he has extremely high expectations of himself and is unforgiving of his own, normal, imperfections. He is therefore constantly disappointed with how his world is and this can be devastating for a young person. I do hope you can persuade him to see a counsellor to talk this through. It is most important that you have as little to do with this as possible, once you have guided him towards accepting some help. That way he is more likely to feel he has made the effort to change things for himself.

Sometimes we can be so worried about our children – at any age - that we would do anything for them, forgetting that they need to stand alone when they are adults and feel they are in control. It is clear that he benefits greatly from your presence but try to stand back a little once he shows signs of wanting to change things. It will only happen when he is ready of course so you might have a bit of a wait. But In the meantime I’m sure you will be ready to offer as much support as he wants and needs.

Don’t forget to look after your own needs as well. You cannot support him without a cost to your own health, both emotional and physical, so, just like your son, try to find your own friends who can support you and find ways of relaxing whenever you are able.

I daresay he has access to the internet so you could suggest he check these websites which might lead him to further self help. offers support and information to people suffering from depression and to their supporters. has masses of information about the depression (about mental illness), medications, where to find help and how to cope. Under ‘Find a therapist’, the British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy has a list of therapists, area by area, who belong to the organization and therefore work within their code of ethics.


You can write to Maggi at for her to respond in the column.

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