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As a sibling

Growing up with a sibling who hears voices is an experience which is not often spoken about. That in itself can be a challenge, in that it might feel there is no space to discuss feelings or experiences. The resources which do exist to support family members tend to focus on parents and carers, and siblings might feel they are not heard.

As a sibling icon

If the person struggles with negative voices or is overwhelmed by their distress, a sibling may feel a profound sense of loss or sorrow for the way things were before the voices started. They may feel as if their brother or sister is no longer the person they once were. Many siblings experience guilt at feeling they are not able to help –  guilt which can be exacerbated by age, gender or personality. It can be tricky to turn to one’s own family for support, and sometimes siblings may feel frozen out, or powerless.

Some siblings suddenly find themselves in a caring role, and find the additional responsibilities challenging.  Equally, some people may feel angry, confused or resentful about the way in which their sibling’s experiences impact on family life and change the dynamics within it. They may be upset about the attention they feel their sibling has received and feel guilty about this. For others, voice-hearing is just part of their sibling’s identity and life story.

Being a ‘sibling’ means that you share in what your brother or sister is going through. You’re always on call to damage control, to protect, defend or explain the situation. I’m finding it hard to move on. But I never feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for him … It’s possibly one of the most heartbreaking experiences I’ve had to endure.

Your stories, Rethink Mental Illness

My mother’s attention was completely taken up with what was happening with my sister, and there was little time for me and my other siblings. I felt upset that I wasn’t getting any time with my mother and began to misbehave, because I saw this as the way my sister was getting all of her time. I didn’t know how else to get some of her attention for myself, but I would just get into more trouble and my actions only met with disapproval. These feelings of jealousy, guilt and sadness were very difficult to cope with and I later took another course of counselling to try and untangle all of these complicated emotions I had toward my family.

Your stories, Rethink Mental Illness

Looking for support?

Rethink has a Siblings’ Network, where you can find information and advice, hear siblings’ stories, and talk to others.

There is an additional section for parents to think about siblings, as well as a youth siblings section

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