My online friendships may be negatively affecting my mental health
I have a lot of online friends, and that can be great because there’s no social pressure with friend groups and stuff. They’re great and all, funny, nice etc, but I’ve recently realsied that maybe they’re not the best influence on me. A lot struggle with mental health issues, and come to me in times of need. They’re all between 15-18 and don’t realise I’m 14 as I dont want them to know for fear they’ll treat me differently. Anyways, when they have bad days they talk to me about it, and sometimes I think ”hey look, I’m helping, that’s great, I’m useful and needed”. Then other times it’s a burden. I give up time in my day (and night) to offer them advice, to write them whole paragraphs on why they should keep living, how they’re good enough. It’s not necessarily that I want something in return, it’s just that it’s taking a toll on me and not helping with my own issues and I feel like they don’t care about me as much as I do them and don’t try as hard to look out for me or make sure I’m alright. I feel like I’d be putting stress on them if I talked about my own feelings. I don’t want to end what I have with them as 1) I’m scared that I won’t know if they DO try something, and 2) because they’ve offered me some sound advice in the past and I know that even if they don’t ASK if I’m alright, they’d listen if I did want to talk. What do I do?
Hi there and welcome to Ask Alex.
You seem to have a lot going on at the moment. We know how difficult it can be to share what you are going through; it is very brave of you to reach out and look for support.
You explained you are trying to support your online friends who seem to be struggling with mental health issues, specifically suicidal thoughts. If you know someone who talks about suicide or has attempted it, you might feel a mix of emotions including feeling upset, frustrated, confused, guilty, angry or scared. These are all normal responses. Supporting a person who has suicidal thoughts can be emotionally draining, so you might need support yourself.
There are some things you could do to mind yourself, such as talking to an adult you trust about what is happening and how this is making you feel. This could be helpful in two ways: 1.) you could get the support you need to cope with what is going on for you and your friends and 2.) the adult may contact your friend’s family or help you and/or them to gain access to a service that specializes in supporting young people dealing with suicidal thoughts such as Pieta House: https://www.pieta.ie/.
You also mentioned that lately, you haven’t been sharing with these friends how you feel or the things you go through, but at the same time you said they have been supportive of you in the past. It seems like you don’t want to overburden your online friends, and while this is understandable, it may be helpful to keep in mind that they do seem to care about you and have listened to you previously. Sometimes we forget about ourselves and put other people’s well-being first. The fact that you listen to your friends and put effort into responding with supportive messages tells us at Ask Alex that you are a caring and considerate person and a good friend but remember, we need to mind ourselves first. Have you ever been on an aeroplane? If you have, you’ll know that passengers are told to put on their own masks first in the case of an emergency or they will run out of air before being able to help anyone else – the same applies here – in order to best support others, its best that you are happy, healthy and taken care of first.
If you would like to discuss this further, you are always welcome to talk with Childline. The Childline team are here to listen to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so you can contact us at any time. We are available by free phone on 1800 66 66 66, by text at 50101 or by web chat through: www.childline.ie. The services are free, confidential, non-judgmental and we offer a safe place to talk about anything that is going on for you. We would love to hear from you!