Twitch Streamers Are Burning Out from Acting as Shrinks to Their Fans
Streamers focusing on mental health often find themselves in unenviable positions
For several years, James was one of Twitch’s most prominent mental health streamers. (James prefers to keep his surname private.) Under his somewhat absurd online alias, General_Mittenz, a talking cat, he’d discuss his issues with anxiety and depression, give tips on how best to deal with panic attacks and talk about the stigma he faced; he even told viewers about his father’s suicide several years prior.
The point, James says, was to create a safe community where people could come and talk about their problems, whether that was something as serious as a mental health diagnosis or as standard as a bad day at work, college or school. He’d found his own ways to cope with his diagnosis of PTSD, he says, and wanted to pass that knowledge on to others.
But last year, James stopped using mental health as a platform. “Every week I would have one to three people in my DMs telling me they were going to kill themselves,” he says. He’d signpost them to professionals, usually a “toll free, international number” so that viewers from across the world could get help. But often they’d return, unable to get help elsewhere.
Already struggling with his own issues, the frequency of the messages started to grind him down: “I felt like I was a shred of a person,” he says. So he stopped the mental health streams altogether.
Even without an explicit mental health element to their content, streaming can have a significant impact on someone’s wellbeing. Worries about constantly performing to fans can put pressure on streamers; on Twitch, streams that last for hours or go on late into the night can also disrupt someone’s sleep schedule and in turn their mental health.
High-profile cases, including that of Desmond “Etika” Amofah, a 29-year-old Twitch streamer and YouTuber who took his own life earlier this year, have brought even more attention to the issue. In April, Twitch addressed these difficulties itself, releasing a blog post designed to help streamers with their mental health, encouraging them to use coping techniques and set working hours to maintain a sense of…