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To Sam

Supporting friends is affecting me

I am always quite busy. I’m in year 11, so everything is hectic. I have a couple friends in real life, but most of my friends are online. And of those people online, about 80% of them I have helped at some point or another. I find myself drawn to sad people. These are people who contemplate suicide or are in awful situations, but often they overlap.

I’ve never had the best sleeping patterns, but a while ago I found that these patterns were being deteriorated by staying up late when I have school the next day. I have been spending hours comforting people, preventing suicides and cheering people up. Some days this has taken me right through the night from 10pm to 6am, because of the timezone difference between the UK and America.

I had mock exams just before Christmas, and so did a lot of my friends, so every night I was up late trying to revise and help them at the same time. This resulted in me completely messing up my mocks and I also missed a practical mock due to an incident caused by my mental health. I know I don’t have much room for error in several of my exams, and now I’m missing a third of timetabled lessons, because I have been taken out of four subjects due to stress.

So it’s all well and good knowing that 3-4 of my friends are safe for another day, but it has a huge impact on me, my education and my future. It’s an impossible balance to get right and as a teenager who can’t act on what they say, only talk, they trust me a lot more than parents, school and real life friends. I can’t let them down but I have to, for my own wellbeing.

Ask Sam

Sam

Hi there

Helping others can be a positive thing and can boost your own confidence and self-esteem. You might find you put other people’s needs before your own when they’re having a difficult time. If you do this too much it might start to affect you and your day to day life. Exams can have a big effect on your future so it’s important that school is your priority at the moment.

Looking after yourself first is the only way you can help other people in the long term. If you’re putting their needs ahead of yours all of the time it will mean you burn out first. This might affect things like school or relationships. It may also start affecting your own mental health. It’s important that you have time for yourself to do things that you enjoy doing.

Try to remember that you’re not responsible for keeping other people safe. You should never feel like you have to talk to someone – even if they’re feeling suicidal. If you think someone might be about to end their life then it’s always okay to call 999. If someone is abroad, the police can contact the police in their country for you. You don’t have to spend all of your time talking with that person though – you are not their therapist or carer.

It’s important to remind yourself that there is a limit to what you can do to help as a friend. Someone with complicated mental health problems needs professional help – which you can’t give, no matter how long you talk to them. It’s good to be there as a friend but I can see that the help you’re giving other people is having a negative effect on you and that shouldn’t happen.

If you want to talk I would encourage you to contact one of our counsellors and they can listen. We might be able to help you build some boundaries with your online friends and help you work out what to do next.

Thank you for your letter.

Take care,

Sam

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