The Effects of Severe Mental Illness on Siblings

Open Access
Walker, Lauren Marie
Area of Honors:
Rehabilitation and Human Services
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Dr Brandon Hunt, Thesis Supervisor
  • Brandon Hunt, Honors Advisor
  • Elizabeth Mellin, Faculty Reader
  • mental illness
  • siblings
This phenomenological qualitative study examines the psychological, emotional, and social effects that severe mental illnesses have played on the lives of four well siblings. After conducting four interviews with well siblings, it became apparent that mental illness has a unique and significant impact on the lives of siblings in ways that are different from any other member of the family. Using phenomenological qualitative analysis, the following themes emerged: emotional reactions to living in a family affected by mental illness, need for education, lack of inclusion in the treatment process, and coping and advocacy. Based on experiences and descriptions of the sibling participants, it is clear mental health providers must begin to include siblings in the recovery process. Siblings are a crucial element of the family unit and they need to be treated as such; with their ability to make unique contributions to the treatment processes of their ill siblings, well siblings must be educated, included, and encouraged to discuss their own needs while helping their brothers or sisters in their own recovery.