It is not uncommon for the sibling of a person with mental illness be placed into a role of caretaker or be made an “invisible” family member. Often times the family’s resources (emotional, financial and time spent) are exhausted on the person with mental illness, leaving little left for a sibling. In adulthood, siblings will often gain their own independence as an opportunity for respite from the family dynamic they had while growing up. Some siblings sacrifice their own personal growth in order to continue caretaking their family, resulting in subsequent patterns of codependence and depression. Research has shown that a common thread in adult siblings with mental illness is anxiety and fear that they will be left responsible for the care of their siblings once their parents pass.
Family therapy is a priority at Hanbleceya, which includes working with the siblings as a significant part of the entire family’s healing. Self-care and education is highly encouraged of all family members, with an emphasis for siblings to connect with others with a similar experience while pursuing their own life path. A strengthening of connections within the family is possible when siblings can be seen for their own strengths and struggles, without the obligation to “fade into the background” or care take while in a crisis. Specifically, Hanbleceya offers bi-weekly sibling groups, which is a space for the siblings of our clients to come together and learn from each other’s experiences. Sibling participation in individual family sessions and the Family Support Group enriches the healing process for the family, including the opportunity for the sibling’s experience to be heard and to take on a different role in the family.