Siblings: The Forgotten Survivors

By June 18, 2018 No Comments

Keynote speaker at this year’s TheMHS Conference,Shannon Jaccard,  suggests that the sibling community is the secret resource that could help provide stability to the mental health system.

How did you first become involved in your field?

Love is how I first became involved.  My brother was in many ways the typical teenager.  He was an avid skateboarder, bit of a daredevil, and voted class clown.  But then odd behaviour, that couldn’t be explained away as teenage angst, pushed him down a path of isolation and mis-treatment.  Doctors eventually diagnosed him with schizophrenia, and I thrust myself into finding answers.  I loved my brother and was determined to find a way back to my ‘old’ brother.  So I researched, studied, and volunteered in the local mental health community.  I eventually started my own ventures and worked with organisations to discover effective support and treatment solutions to help people with a mental health diagnosis.  My bond with my brother was instrumental in my drive to truly make a difference in treatment and recovery from mental illnesses.

If people could know one point about your work what would you like them to know?

What if the solution to the instability of the mental health system was hiding in plain sight?  Burnout, lack of affordability, stigma, and finances are all fundamental concerns.  The sibling community is the secret resource that has barely been tapped into.  With 80% of households having more than one child, and one in four families caregiving for a loved one with a mental illness, there is an abundance of siblings to make sweeping changes to the mental health system.  Siblings who have the resources, time, and positions to impact the mental health system. Research shows that you are shaped as much if not more by your siblings.  Yet, this relationship is often met with ambiguity and rarely discussed as a primary player in the mental health system.  Why isn’t there a more active sibling voice? Because we haven’t validated their experience.

AARP named caregivers of people with a mental illness as the ‘most invisible caregiver.’  If parents are invisible, then the child without a mental illness is forgotten.

We need to meet their needs of guilt, anger, and isolation.  We need to empower their voice.

We need to call upon the forgotten.

 What’s one thing not many people know about you?

I have a minor in Mathematics, and I am writing a Victorian area mystery romance novel.

Why are you looking forward to coming to Adelaide?

When I founded Compeer San Diego, an organization that provided one-to-one friendships to persons with a serious mental illness, my first volunteer was an Australian lady who happened to be living in San Diego for a year – she was one of the first individuals to teach me about the peer movement and I look forward to reconnecting with her in person.  I’ve also been long impressed with the work Australia has embarked on to reduce stigma and their increased variety of new mental health tools.  I think Australia is in many ways ahead of the curve, and I delight in the opportunity to see these tools first hand and interact with the people who set them up.

 Where can people find out more about your work? 

Website & Blog: www.shannonjaccard.com
Instagram @ShannonJaccard
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-jaccard-m-b-a-b48ab110/
FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/shannonjaccard/
Twitter: @ShannonJaccard
Videos: https://shannonjaccard.com/work/
The Mighty: https://themighty.com/author/shannon-jaccard/

TheMHS Conference 2018 Adelaide 

S03: KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: Labels, Stigma, & Shifting Perceptions in Mental Health – Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM, Hall C

S15: KEYNOTE Q&A – Shannon Jaccard, Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM Hall A

Shannon’s Abstract for TheMHS Conference 2018

As many as eighty percent of individuals have a sibling, and it is more likely that a person will grow up with a brother or sister than a father. In the context of mental health, 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 individual’s recovery. The hidden assets of these forgotten siblings are lost to the needs of the person with the mental illness.

Modern 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. The supportive relationship between siblings fosters 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 sibling relationships and other children to explore the idea that these bonds may be pivotal in overall mental wellbeing for both the individuals and the community at large.

Shannon Jaccard

Shannon Jaccard is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Ballast Health, an organization dedicated to creating stability in turbulence. She is the recent past CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) San Diego. Shannon serves on several boards including RI International and the Meeting Place Clubhouse in San Diego County. Shannon has received numerous awards such as; the Rona and Ken Purdy Award to End Discrimination and the Channel 10 News Leadership Award. She was named one of San Diego’s “50 People to Watch” by San Diego Magazine. She earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego and her Master’s of Business Administration from California State University, San Marcos. Above all, she is the sister of someone with a mental health challenge. Shannon has published several articles bringing to light the experiences siblings share when a loved one has a mental illness.  Shannon is a Fellow of the inaugural class of the Health Innovators Program and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.