Get information and advice - Your wellbeing as a sibling
It is important that you think about your own wellbeing as well as that of your brother or sister. Mental illness has affects everyone in the family and by looking after yourself, you'll be in a better position to support others. Also, it is important that we all think about own mental health and wellbeing.
The following factsheets can help you think about your own wellbeing.
Reflecting on what has happened
Creating your own wellbeing plan
Does mental illness run in families?
With your own responsibilities and health to keep in the balance, it can really help to find out more about the support available to you and your family while you are supporting your brother or sister with their mental health.
You may be supporting your brother or sister emotionally, and at times when they are unwell you may need to provide more emotional support than usual, and you may also be supporting other family members while having emotional needs of your own.
This can sometimes feel overwhelming and you may need support yourself, or need to to take some time to look at how much you are able to provide this while still maintaining your own mental health and emotional wellbeing. This can sometimes lead to feelings of guilt, for instance feeling that you should always be doing more, or feelings of resentment as you find it difficult to find time for yourself and other relationships in your life.
It can help to think about what you are comfortable with. If you are talking every day and this is too much, you could think about how you could change this, for instance by sometimes sending text messages instead of calling, or planning conversation time in advance and setting boundaries for how often this will be.
If you feel that you want to provide more support to your sibling and feel they are not asking for the support you feel ready to give, you could let them know that you are here to listen when they are ready.
As with all sibling relationships, you may support one another more or less at different times, but allow yourself to think about what you are comfortable with and explore your feelings and needs too.
Finding the right balance
It can sometimes be difficult for people to work out the right balance of support they are able, or willing, to give to their family and this is something that can change over time and depending on circumstances.
Sometimes siblings might find themselves unable to provide the support they feel is expected or needed from them, because they have their own responsibilities, families and emotions to cope with, live far away, or do not have that kind of relationship with their sibling.
At other times, siblings may try to do too much and not realise the limitations of the care they are able to reasonably offer.
It is important to assess and reassess the level of support you can give and help you may need and to remember that you should look after yourself too. If you do not look after your own needs, you could in turn find it hard to support your family and sibling.
It can help to talk to other people who have siblings affected by mental illness about their experiences, or you might like to discuss how you are feeling with a close friend, family member or your sibling themselves.
Talk to other siblings in a support group
Find out information about ways you, your family and services can support your brother or sister
Support for carers
Sometimes people might not be sure if they are a 'carer' or not. When families and friends offer a large amount of practical and emotional support to someone, they can be recognised as an 'informal carer' by professionals, which can mean they are entitled to extra support themselves.
Many brothers and sisters may see themselves as being a supportive sibling, when they are fulfilling what would be known as a carer, or secondary carer role.
If you are providing support for your sibling, are considering providing more support in the future, or want to understand more about what you and other relatives can do as carers and what support you may be entitled to you can find out more in our Carers, Family and Friends section.
You might also want to look for local carer support services and groups. Rethink Mental Illness may have this type of service in your area, which you can check by searching for services and groups on the Rethink Mental Illness website. There may also be other organisations that provide carer support locally such as Mind, the Carers Trust or Making Space.
If you provide substantial unpaid care for your sibling now, or you take on a caring role in the future, you are entitled to a Carer's Assessment. This is an assessment of your needs due to your caring role.
Find out about Carer's Assessments
Whether or not you are recognised as an 'informal carer', it can be useful to find out more about caring as to some degree everyone may take on different caring responsiblities at different times.
I worked out that if I was to be a long term carer I would have to know how to look after myself first if I was to do the caring job effectively.
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Contact our Advice team about mental health & related issues
0300 5000 927 Monday - Friday 9.30am - 4pm, not including bank holidays