Okay, so, I'm writing because a friend of mine needs help.
Make a long story short, he's become the sole emotional support of several friends of his- several of whom are suicidal- who either can't afford therapy or have parents who won't let them go to it.
And it's wearing him down a ton.
My first thought is that said friends need a proper network of emotional support instead of just relying on him. Problem is, neither of us knows how to make that happen.
Any help would be appreciated.
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What you and/or your friend need to do ASAP is that if some of these people are suicidal you need to tell them to get professional help. None of us here (not you, not me, not your friend) has been formally trained to properly counsel someone who needs this kind of support. If they do not have a counselor already, urge them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The call is free to any who needs to use it.
I don't know the ages of these people, nor where they live, but depending on the state, teens can receive certain medical services (including mental health) without a parent's consent. Here is a link to a PDF that covers services for minors, how they vary from state to state, and what they include (STIs, abortion, contraception, emergency medical, LGBT counseling, and mental health services are all listed.)
It is disappointing that some parents resist helping their own kids (although, I also suspect that the people you are talking about might just say their parents aren't helping when, in fact, it could be they are too embarrassed to tell their moms and dads what is going on.)
So, who pays? Well, minors should be covered by their parents' health insurance, and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) allows children to remain on their parents' health insurance up to the age of 23. If, as can be the case, the parents do not have coverage, there are assistance programs (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) of which many people are simply unaware. Here is a helpful link from Mental Health America that can help. Oh, and don't forget that if they are still at school, many schools have professional counselors, free of charge. That is a good place to start, and they can even help with the next steps.
There are a lot of troubled people in the world, and when they find someone like your friend that is kind enough to listen and try to help, they can latch on like leeches and be difficult to extricate. The quandary for the good-hearted soul is to realize when enough is enough. Empathetic people can get sucked into this trap very easily, and yes, it is very draining and can even make you ill.
Sounds like your friend is a little like me. What I have learned is that you can offer some support and encouragement, but if there are any serious issues (medical or mental conditions) you should always refer them to a professional. Even for less serious issues, if you are constantly asked the same things over and over and over, it is likely that these are people who are simply desperately lonely and are looking for sympathy (an extreme form of this is called Munchausen's syndrome) in a desperate attempt for validation. Such people are poison, really. They are like saplings on a tree, sucking out nutrients and giving back nothing until the tree sickens and dies.
Your friend should not feel guilty about pulling away from such people. Once it gets to the point that they sound like broken records who are unwilling to listen to advice to fix their own problems, that's when you say, "Maybe you should seek professional counseling." One reaction he might get is the outraged, "I thought you cared! But you don't care about me, do you?" This is often followed by weeping. Response, "No, I do care, but I'm clearly not helping you. If you really want help, you should get counseling."
Now, I'm talking about people who only talk to your friend to complain and threaten suicide. That's different from a good friend with whom you share a lot of activities but who, occasionally, may ask for advice. I'm not saying block these latter types; I'm talking about those who are bottomless pits of need; they are "emotional vampires." Toxic. Avoid them.
Bottom line: it's not your or his job to find them other friends for emotional support (in fact, that would be mean of you to do to those other people). Know when to say, "No." Know when enough is enough. Learn to recognize toxic people. And don't feel guilty about it. Being kind to others is a great attitude to have, but not when it comes at the expense of your own sanity.
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