Clinically depressed recent college grad

I’m seeking advice for how best to support my son. He has been rocked in the last couple years by a life-altering medical diagnosis, the divorce of his parents, and most recently, graduation from college. As an ADHD kid with executive function challenges and some social skills deficits, he has always struggled with transitions but this is next level. 
He tried working with a therapist but gave up when it was not a good fit and didn’t pursue the search further. He doesn’t live in the area so I’m at a loss as to how to help him connect with a good therapist. In the meantime, he’s self medicating with weed. I get the sense he doesn’t have much going socially. He’s managing to hold down a low-paying job but can’t manage a career-oriented job search. He is so unhappy I’m worried about the possibility of self harm. What to do??

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I’m so sorry! This happened in our family and here’s what I wish we had done:

I wish we had seriously prioritized my nephew’s mental health over our family’s expectations about his post-college independence and future job prospects. This would have meant taking FMLA (family leave from work) flying to where he was and spending time with him — just to be there. Not to insist he get a therapist or a better job or stop using weed, but showing him how important he is to us and that we care enough to stop what we are doing to be with him in this difficult time. 
I realize this plan probably sounds unrealistic but think about what you would do if (god forbid) he had a newly diagnosed serious physical illness or was in a car accident.
I wish we had travelled to his city, got a nearby Airbnb and spent 2-3 hours each day going for a walk with him or playing video games or watching Netflix. Or just sitting at the table reading the newspaper! After that time spent together, I believe you would be well-positioned to help him figure out what he needs.
in our family’s case I really think this would have prevented an increasing dependence on weed and a spiraling depression. 
I think it’s so good that you have an awareness of what might be going on and are trying to help — good luck to you. 


I urge you to think of this the same as you would a cancer diagnosis. What would you do to help your child? Personally, when my child had a similar experience I went there and found out they needed to come home and get intensive treatment. Are you paying for anything? If so you can write a contract for them to get treatment, and you continue to pay, if not you can really only encourage. I really do recommend rapid treatment effects for depression, such as TMS while they go on medication and get therapy. 

I was a super high achieving HS student, who struggled with depression basically from the start of my teens. I wasn't this bad post-college, but I was struggling and I have some thoughts about what I needed at the time.  I strongly agree with avadavid -- think more expansively about what might be possible. Is it really not possible for you to take FMLA or just a leave of absence to go be with him? Can you take a week of vacation to check in on him and be present? Is there anyone else in your family who can be there for him?

My parents, when they visited me across the country, really dug in: they bought groceries and made dinner. They fixed weird shit in my crummy apartment that shouldn't have been broken but was. They got me matching mugs. Did my laundry. Bought me a nice blanket.

They sent my brother for a two week visit. He was an undergrad at the time, I think, but he went out and bought me some basic necessities that made a huge difference, and he was just there, being kind to me.

So I guess what I'm saying is: don't under estimate the power of just being there and helping get his environment together. Don't push conversations that he isn't ready to have, do clean out his cupboards and restock them.

That's a lot for anyone, much less a neurodiverse young adult, to manage. I'm sorry, my heart goes out to him, and to you.

I also have a neurodiverse young adult with complicated things going on in their life who began self-medicating with cannabis years ago and has had a full-blow cannabis use disorder for a while now. I suggest you look into The Invitation to Change. This is a relatively new support program based on science and kindness that builds on decades of research and practice. The program offers understanding and tools to help us navigate a healthy relationship with our loved ones while motivating them to change. I wish it would have been around and I'd had know about it when my child was beginning to struggle. What I've learned through the program not only helps me navigate the situation with my child, but life in general as it's based on behavioral science.

Full disclosure, the program has been so helpful to me that I became a certified trainer (i.e., group facilitator). Feel free to reach out to me directly if you'd like to know more about the program.

Take care of yourself, and I wish you and your son well.