My brother / sister gets help from Forward Thinking Birmingham

“Even though you don’t have the condition, you still have to live with it”

If you are the brother or sister of someone with a mental health condition or learning disability, your family life is likely to be different to that of your friends.

Your brother or sister may come to Forward Thinking Birmingham and you may have been involved in some of the interventions or support that has been offered. Or it might be that you know your brother or sister gets support from us but you don’t really know why or what happens when they do. Or somewhere in between those two.

Either way, it is likely that you have a range of feelings, thoughts, worries and questions about mental health and about your sibling’s condition and the way it affects you and your role within your family.

Being a sibling of someone with a mental health problem or learning disability means that your role is likely to be different at home. You might be more involved in looking after your brother or sister or in helping more around the house. You might be more restricted in whether you can bring your friends home and whether or not you talk to your friends about your home life.

Often, being the sibling of someone with a mental health condition can create a whole range of emotions that can be difficult to understand, difficult to talk about and difficult to manage. Your relationship with your parents/carers might be affected because you don’t want to burden them with how you are feeling on top of the worries they have for your brother or sister.

You may experience different feelings at different times. Some that other young people with siblings have told us about include:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Worry
  • Confusion
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety
  • Low mood
  • Lonely
  • 'Life’s not fair’
  • Jealous
  • Embarrassed
  • Isolated
  • Misunderstood
  • Left out
  • Annoyed
  • Scared for the future
  • Walking on eggshells
  • Wanting to make sure everyone is ok

 

These are normal feelings but when they become too much to manage it’s important that you let someone know. 

Being a sibling can often mean that you grow up quicker than your friends and you might have times when you feel you can’t relate to your friends as easily because their home life and worries are so different to yours.

Often siblings are expected to ‘just get on with it’ even though some of the experiences and feelings you have can feel overwhelming.

Together with some siblings, we have come up with a small list of ideas of what to do when you feel things are getting too much. We have also listed some more places to go for more information too, which we hope are helpful:

Ideas to help

  • Talk about it with another sibling
  • Cry – let it out
  • Listen to music
  • Go for a walk
  • Write a diary
  • Take yourself away from it when it becomes too much – but don’t distance yourself all the time. Stay part of your family
  • Do something completely different to take your mind of it, something you enjoy
  • Talk to your Parents, a teacher or someone else you feel you can trust

For more information, support and advice

Young minds
The mental health charity for young people.

ChildLine
A charity which offers a private and confidential service for 0-19s.You can contact a ChildLine counsellor about anything - no problem is too big or too small. Call free on 0800 1111, have a one to one chat online or send an email.

Sibs
A charity for siblings of children with disabilities or health conditions.

Action for Children
A charity which provides support for all sorts of young people, families and young carers.