for Siblings & Adult Children
of Persons with Mental Illness
If you find it difficult to come to terms
with your sibling's or parent's mental illness, you are not alone. Most
siblings and adult children find that the onset of mental illness in a
brother, sister, or parent is a tragic event that changes life in
fundamental ways. The experience of strange, unpredictable behaviors in a
loved one can be devastating, and anxiety can be high as you struggle with
each episode of illness and worry about the future. While It seems
impossible at first, most siblings and adult children find that over time
they do gain the knowledge and skills to cope with mental illness
effectively. They do have strengths they never knew they had, and they can
meet situations they never anticipated. A good start while learning to
cope is to learn as much as possible about mental illness by reading and
talking with other families. NAMI has books, pamphlets, fact sheets, and
tapes available about different illnesses, treatments, and issues you may
have to deal with. You can also Join one of the 1,100 local NAMI groups
throughout the nation. (For the location of a local AMI, call the NAMI
The following are some things to remember
that should help you as you learn to live with mental illness in your
1. You cannot cure a mental disorder for a
parent or sibling.
2. No one is to blame.
3. The mental illnesses are not on a
continuum with mental health.
4. Mental disorders affect more than the
5. Despite your best efforts, symptoms may
get worse, or they may improve.
6. If you feel extreme resentment, you are
giving too much.
7. It is as hard for the parent &
sibling to accept the disorder as it is for other family members,
8. Acceptance of the disorder by all
concerned may be helpful, but it is not necessary.
9. A delusion is not amenable to reason, so
it needs no discussion.
10. Separate the person from the disorder.
11. It is not OK for you to be neglected.
You have emotional needs and wants, too.
12. The illness of a family member is
nothing to be ashamed of. The reality is that you may encounter stigma
from an apprehensive public.
13. You may have to revise your
14. You may have to renegotiate your