Siblings and Mental Illness

Eileen Bailey Health Guide
  • The other day, I was editing a homework assignment my daughter had completed. She had written a paper on who she was. The essay talked about her love of music, what she enjoys doing with her friends, and her family.


    She wrote about her older brother, diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder with severe depression. She stated that he had attempted suicide on several occasions and then said, "Everyday I worry about if the next time the ambulance will get there on time."


    What a hard thing for a 14-year-old girl to live with! This highlights the fact that mental illness not only impacts the life of the person living with it, but the lives of those close to them. And so often, those people are ignored or neglected, not intentionally, but their needs may be put aside or put off until "later."

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    Siblings, especially, have a hard time. Parents must take care of the needs of the child with special needs, which may require an immense amount of time and energy. It may be emotionally draining. And somehow, they must also take care of the needs of their other children.


    My son is older now and he no longer lives in my home. My time now belongs to my younger children. But it is obvious that scars remain. For my daughter to worry "everyday" about the well being of her older brother is both good and bad. To be concerned about a sibling is a good thing, to be only fourteen and worry about whether her older brother will live through another suicide attempt is beyond her years.


    My son suffers from more than ADHD. He has found it difficult to control his bipolar disorder and suicidal tendencies. The emotional toll it has taken on the entire family is enormous. Now, however, it is time for me to make sure my daughter is okay. To make sure she is able to cope with all that has happened, and may happen, in our family.


    Previously I wrote an article on helping siblings cope with ADHD in the family. I will be revisiting my own article, reviewing the strategies and implementing them in my own home. The statement my daughter wrote in her essay was a wake up call for me to pay more attention to the emotional needs of my two younger children. I hope this information in the article will help other parents as well. 


Published On: October 07, 2008