Housing an adolescent with schizophrenia

My 15 year old son has a significant family history of schizophrenia, and had early diagnoses of adhd and autism. At age 14, he became extremely withdrawn, started failing school, and began abusing substances, stealing, etc. His substance abuse required residential care for two months followed by a partial hospitalization program. He recently had his first major psychotic break where he believed his skin was falling off, was seeing shadows, hearing voices, contemplating suicide, and also had very heinous paranoid delusions/false memories of me trying to kill him, raping him… the list goes on. At one point we even faced a CPS investigation, as he had told a therapist in substance abuse treatment that we “kept him in a cage” which fortunately was an easy to dispel false allegation. He was hospitalized for psychosis and his drug screening came back negative, and he denied any recent drug use. He was given a new diagnosis of having an unspecified psychotic disorder and was started on a low dose of abilify, which seems to be helping. His father and I are divorced and have two other children and full time jobs. Our son’s care is beyond our capacity to manage in-home without our world’s revolving around his needs and constant emergencies, while the needs of our other 2 kids feel as though they’re being neglected. I want to know what types of housing resources might be available for our son outside of our homes? We want to stay engaged in his life and we want him to be engaged in family and community activities, but we are beyond burnt out from the caregiving demands of having a child with a psychotic and substance abuse disorder. Are there homes for kids like mine that won’t bankrupt us? Is starting a group home an option? What do people do in this situation? We’re at a loss.

I would ask a social worker and a counselor or therapist if you can get ahold of one. Be very clear about how this is impacting your day to day life. At best, I know, they offer day programs for the mentally ill, that would have your son with more intensive Psychiatric help while trying to maintain his schooling, than what is possible in a standard HS environment. This is seen as a last resort though, so you must involve counselors, CPS, and Social Workers in order to document this level of necessary care.

Getting and maintaining your relationship with his to have the necessary ROI (Releases of Information) is absolutely essential. In most states the first cut-off date for a child to make independent care decisions ranges between 14 and 16. Finding out your states laws, and articulating proof and veracity of your son’s condition before HIPPA laws, or his own MI (Mental Illness) shuts him off, is essential. From there, it will be making sure he has the right Dx (diagnosis) and Tx (if a new or old med wasn’t working) that will keep him stable and hopefully experiencing fewer symptoms.

The book is a band-aide but it can be useful to read Dr. Xavier Amador’s “I’m Not Sick, I don’t Need Help.” Lectures on his work and the LEAP foundation can be found on YouTube.

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has chapters throughout the U.S and has a resource list and online lecture called “Family to Family” that can be very helpful in navigating the long-term caretaking and prognosis of this disease.

I am so sorry you are going through this. Unfortunately, it will be a long paper trail to get your SZ son the care he needs. If nothing else, getting into family counseling and having your kids talk to you and a therapist is highly recommended.

My brother began showing signs of his mental illness as a teenager but didn’t experience his first violent break till he was in Uni. We actually now know he was probably experiencing symptoms as a teenager that we put toward being, well, a teenager. There were a few incidents now in school ect, that we can see as something that was likely a manifestation of his psychosis. At the time though, counselors and others thought it was related to teenage rebellion ect. and so offered services that were more akin to what they saw in the average high schooler.

All my sympathy. I am so sorry you are going though this.

1 Like

Welcome to this forum @MomtoJ , I am so very glad you found it. To be honest, EVERYONE who is caregiving to a person with severe mental illness feels at some time, or at many times, or all the time, just like you feel right now.

@Wederington034985 is giving good advice above.

I was a lost soul when I found this site due to a post by @hope years ago about helping the unmedicated. The best thing you can do is spend your time surfing on here for topics that seem similar to your own situation with your son, or that might help you. NAMI Family to Family class (the 12 week in-person course) was soooooooo helpful to me. Dr. Amador’s book gave me a starting place. Learning the laws was extremely helpful as in the end, my knowledge of the laws led to getting my daughter on a medication that is still working for her.

Housing is a complicated subject, while your son is under 18 is the best time to research and find a solution like that. Also, the best time to get him used to allowing you to make decisions for him when needed. I only know of one parent who was able to get their son into a home paid for by Social Security and Medicaid before he was 18. He is still being cared for in that home and is 27 now. And is doing well there.

Make sure to take time when you can to give yourself the care and pampering you need to keep yourself stable. It is such a hard thing to manage your own life while caregiving for schizophrenia, especially while psychosis is active.

1 Like