About being a sibling
Whether your brother or sister has only recently been diagnosed with a mental illness, or your family has been living with mental illness for some time, you are likely to have many different questions and concerns.
Our Siblings Network provides information and advice for the siblings of people with mental illness, whatever your age. You can gain practical skills and a space to think about your own wellbeing so you can find out how to support your sibling and look after yourself now and in the future.
I didn't know where to start or what to ask.
Living with mental illness in the family
You may experience a variety of emotions and practical issues when your sibling has symptoms of, or is diagnosed with a mental illness, and these may change as you get older and circumstances change.
Finding out more about mental illness, how it can affect you and how other siblings and families have coped can really help and it is important to remember that you are not alone.
You might have experienced some of the following feelings:
- Scared, full of questions, worried about how your relationship with your sibling will change and unsure about how to support your brother or sister when they are unwell
- Unsure of where you can go for support or information
- Worried about your parents and how they are coping, and feel that there are questions you do not feel comfortable asking them
- A sense of loss and sorrow for the way things were before and uncertainty about the future
- Mixed feelings of anger or guilt around why this has happened to your sibling
- As you and your parents grow older, you may be concerned about who will care for you brother or sister, or you may take on some carer responsibilities
- Concerned that the same thing might happen to you, for instance concern about genetics and mental illness and worry that you or your children might develop mental illness in the future
- Embarrassment about your sibling's behaviour in front of friends or uncertain about how to talk to friends and family about your sibling's mental illness
- Worry that you do not see your sibling enough or that you do not have enough time for yourself and your own friends or family
- Difficulty in contacting doctors or other mental health professionals when you need to
- Dealing with your own mental health or wellbeing issues and needing time to look after your own health
- Hopeful for the future
Get advice on these issues in our siblings information and advice section and find out more about the complex emotions and issues that many siblings say they have experienced.
You might also find that your experience of mental illness in your family brings some positive outcomes:
- The empathy and understanding you may develop while your sibling is ill could teach you some valuable life skills which you could bring to your other relationships and even your career
- You may feel a sense of achievement in helping your sibling and your family
- You could develop a healthier outlook and awareness regarding your own mental health
- Perhaps you will develop skills in campaigning or activism for mental health
- Your family may reach a new level of understanding after going through the difficulties that families can face when someone has a mental illness
Who is the Siblings Network for?
Our Siblings Network is for anyone whose brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother or stepsister has had, or is living with mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and clinical depression.
The sibling relationship can be one of the longest lasting relationships of our lives, so our Siblings Network is for brothers and sisters of any age, with some information tailored to the issues you may face when you are younger and as you get older.
It can also help parents who wish to find out information to help support their other children in understanding and coping with their sibling’s mental illness. You may also find this information helpful if you have a friend or close relative experiencing mental illness.
We also have information for professionals working in mental health who would like to find out more about how they can involve siblings in their work.