• Güzin Øzbay
  • Sara Kruse Cox
4. term, Public Health, Master (Master Programme)
Title: ‘To navigate in the dark’ - a qualitative study of everyday lives of siblings to a mentally ill per-son.
Problem: Siblings of mentally ill persons often experience consequences in terms of feeling ne-glected by their parents and health practitioners, feeling stigmatized in social relations, being forced to override their own needs, to be a care-person for their sick siblings and lack in tools in how to cope with their thoughts and feelings. Overall, this can lead to the healthy siblings feeling lonely and isolated, not part of a social network, feeling burdened by school and homework or even develop mental illness.
Aim: The aim was to explore how siblings of mentally ill describe their needs and experiences in their everyday lives, and how this knowledge can contribute to perspectives of change to existing Danish initiatives.
Method: An exploratory qualitative study with three girls 15, 16 and 25 years of age, who partici-pated in individual face-to-face semistructured interviews. A thematic analysis resulted in four themes of everyday life-experiences.
Results: Siblings of a mentally ill person feel that they have unspoken needs, feel neglected by their parents, and have 'banned' feelings and thoughts towards their sick sibling. They also feel that it can be difficult to handle everyday life when pressure from the mental illness feels im-mense. Joining a support group with peer siblings of a mentally ill person can change everyday life, as the support group is considered to be both a space where you will be met with understanding, but is also a place to get the tools to cope with the mental illness in one's everyday life. Siblings recommend following to the existing practice in the field of mental health and siblings: 1) Sibling support groups should be more available, 2) Programs should be group-based, 3) The activities should be varied, 4) There is a need for more action and more information, and 5) Early intervention is recommended.
Conclusion: Siblings of people with mental illness can experience their everyday life being very affected by the mental illness. They can experience feeling too little noticed by their parents, to have many unspoken thoughts and feelings about their mentally ill siblings, that their school day is negatively affected, having fewer social relations and feeling isolated and stigmatized. Joining a support group for siblings can be very important. Meeting with other peers in a similar situation can lead to an improved self-esteem, a feeling of not being alone any longer, a better understanding of your situation as well as new coping-tools, which may be of importance in relation to the han-dling of the sometimes incomprehensible events the mental illness can result. The three inform-ants provided recommendations for improvement of existing practice in the field of mental health and siblings.
Publication date2 Jun 2016
Number of pages162
ID: 234628818