Authors: Shannon Jaccard
Event: 2018 TheMHS Conference
Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers
Abstract: Disconnection is both a symptom and a cause of mental illness for all those impacted. Mental illness is not a one person’s disease but an entire family’s new ‘normal.’ Family members report high levels of anxiety, depression, financial strain, and physical ailments. Often times, they feel like they have no one to turn to, and loneliness becomes a barrier to living a full life. “Caregivers of individuals with a mental illness are the most invisible caregivers,” stated AARP. If the caregiver is the most invisible, then the sibling is completely forgotten. When an individual is in crisis, parents remain in crisis long after a provider deems that the moment is over and siblings become lost in a sea of confusion and trauma. The prevailing belief is, “no one understands what I’m going through.” Yet, one in four families are caregiving for a person with a mental illness. From these families, there are millions of ‘other’ children, both young and adult, who describe themselves as being forgotten. Mental illness and its treatment is very demanding on family caregivers who are supporting the individuals recovery with little time and energy left to care for themselves or the needs of their other children. The hidden assets of these forgotten siblings are lost due to lack of resources and willingness to listen. Parents often state that they try to ‘protect’ the person’s siblings from the illness and the stigma of the illness; thus, leaving them out of all relevant conversations. Recent research has shown that who we are is shaped much more by siblings than previously thought. This is apparent when we consider that the sibling relationship lasts longer than any other relationship since parents will pass on, and our partners will come later in life. The sibling bond is often wrought with love, strife, and unity. A supportive relationship between siblings can foster resilience when dealing with difficult life experiences. The sibling relationship suffers tremendously during the cyclical treatment that accompanies modern mental health treatment. Brothers and sisters are torn emotionally from their past sibling bonds and thrust into new roles or reject them outright. This important relationship as it relates to mental health treatment has been unrecognized and underutilized by providers and institutions. Funding and resources to treat mental illness has expanded, however suicide rates continue to rise and stigma and discrimination has not diminished. This talk will focus on combating loneliness at all family member roles and explore how the sibling bond may be pivotal in overall mental wellbeing for both the individuals and the community at large. This talk will challenge you to forgive, to love, and to unify. Shannon Jaccard, MBA Labels, Stigma, & Shifting Perceptions in Mental Health
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