Effects mental illness has on siblings

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Effects mental illness has on siblings

Being the healthy sibling in a family system that has another sibling with a major mental illness is a tremendous challenge. And this is where you really get the recognition that the parents who are attending to these problems are heroic people. Because the other child who doesn’t have a psychiatric problem is going through all the normal developmental phases, challenges, failures, upsets, break ups, experimentation that all other teenagers do. But frequently, as I’ve listened to those kids, they often feel that most of the attention goes – understandably in some way ¬– to the child who has more vulnerability. I encourage you to talk to your child about that. “How is it going? We know that Ricki has a bipolar disorder and he’s been dealing with for a while. How can we attend to your needs? What do you need these days?” I will say that I have found some of those siblings, even as they deal with this burden, have become very emphatic people. That they’re compassionate towards other people which is a great predictor of how your life will go and how your love will go. The capacity to be emphatic towards other people is one of the great gifts in life and really produces a lot of wellbeing and relationship strength overtime. So while I wouldn’t wish that on any sibling in the family system, there may be a silver lining, even for them.

Watch Video: Effects mental illness has on siblings by Kenneth Duckworth, MD, ...


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Kenneth Duckworth, MD

Psychiatrist, Harvard Professor & Medical Director for NAMI

Ken Duckworth, MD, serves as the medical director for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He is triple board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in Adult, Child and Adolescent, and Forensic Psychiatry and has extensive experience in the public health arena.

Dr. Duckworth is currently an Assistant Clinical Professor at Harvard University Medical School, and has served as a board member of the American Association of Community Psychiatrists. Dr. Duckworth has held clinical and leadership positions in community mental health, school psychiatry and now also works as Associate Medical Director for Behavioral Health at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Prior to joining NAMI in 2003, Dr. Duckworth served as Acting Commissioner of Mental Health and the Medical Director for Department of Mental Health of Massachusetts, as a psychiatrist on a Program of Assertive Community Treatment (PACT) team, and Medical Director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center.

Dr. Duckworth attended the University of Michigan where he graduated with honors and Temple University School of Medicine where he was named to the medical honor society, AOA. While at Temple, he won awards for his work in psychiatry and neurology. He also has a family member living with mental illness.

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