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Concerned About My Friend

Published: April 30, 2015
Dear TeenHealthFX,

 

So, I have this guy friend. (Not boyfriend!) He is 19, and I am 14. We met through a club at a public library almost two years ago. He always seemed like a happy person, quiet but happy. However, lately, (ever since late March or so) things have been going downhill for him. He broke up with his girlfriend, (age 16) and he is being forced to find a job by his parents. He has also been judged by everyone around him lately, everyone around him thinks he's gay because he's into girly things, and for being a "furry", etc. All the stress, judging by his Facebook posts, is really taking a toll on him. Judging by his friends' (I moved back in Feb, so I don't know for myself.) comments on his wall, he really IS pretty stressed, and I think he might be becoming sick. I've invited him to come live with me, or near my town for a while, (where finding jobs is easier) and I've also told him he can call me any time since I don't have long distance. I really want him to cheer up, and I don't want him to die! Are there any ways I could console him from 200+ miles across the state?

Signed: Worried About My Friend

Dear Worried About My Friend,

It sounds like your fiend is going through a difficult time that is being compounded by cyber bullying. The worst part of this type of bullying is that it can happen 24/7 and people are more likely to say mean or cruel things over the internet because of the depersonalized format of communication. There also tends to be a snow ball effect when others comment on a negative post, for example demeaning a person’s sexuality. It is frightening how quickly someone’s life can change over night because of harmful comments on Facebook. People are ale judged unfairly in the real world because of the way they dress or act. People have mad assumptions about your friend just because he is into things that are considered more feminine. In some cases we have to accept that the things we do are going to bring attention to oneself because of the uniqueness of the interest. For instance, being a “furry” which often refers to a person who incorporates animal characteristics into their persona or who view themselves as animals with human features. Most people would find this odd but that is irrelevant. If it is harmless and makes the person happy then who is to say they shouldn’t do it. Being “furry” is not as uncommon as people think. There are groups called a furry fandom’s which is a community that comes together to share their common interest in anthropomorphic (attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects) animals characters based on animals.  

It appears your friend could improve his situation by taking a break from Facebook or setting his privacy settings to have more control over who and what is posted on his wall. In a way it is sad because his freedom of speech is being limited because others have targeted him because they view him as different. Nonetheless if it is affecting his emotional well being it would be a good idea to get away from this stressor for awhile.

 

There are many ways to console your friend but you can’t fix the situation for him. He is in a very stressful situation and has limited support and coping skills. You need to encourage him to get himself into therapy so he can sort out his life and pursue his goals. Being ostracized by your peer group can often lead to isolation, which can turn into depression. It sounds like he may already have started down this road. Therapy is a good place to get help putting your life back on track and if clinical depression is an issue that can be treated as well.

 

All you can do is go on being the good friend you have been. You have offered your support and reached out to let him know you are there for him. Everybody should have a friend like you!

 

If your friend lives in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area.

 

 

 

 

 

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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