When teens experience mental health issues, many members of the family may become negatively affected, especially siblings close in age.
Behaviors such as stealing, bullying, dramatic outbursts, lying, and demanding silence or even displaying negative symptoms of their mental health issues or addiction can all negatively affect siblings of the afflicted teen. Although siblings may seem fine on the outside, those witnessing these behaviors are likely under serious stress.
In the following article, Eva Carlston Academy reviews how teens with mental health challenges can affect their siblings and what families can do to be proactive about these situations.
Impact of Mental Health on Siblings
A teen in crisis can impact siblings in a variety of ways, almost as much as mental health and addiction impacts the teen themselves. Because mental health issues deserve so much care and attention from parents, they can sometimes take parental attention away from siblings. This can result in a sibling feeling left out, forgotten, or even abandoned.
How a mental health crisis affects siblings largely depends upon how old the siblings are when they witness the events. Young children who see violent or aggressive behaviors or exacerbations of mental illness in any negative form are at risk of developing severe anxiety and stress. The younger child may even feel unloved by the teen in crisis.
Children who are exposed to difficult situations within the family will likely require a lot more attention, reassurance, and empathy from parents than children who have never witnessed these types of events. Just the same as a teen experiencing mental health problems, siblings too can experience negative health and emotional consequences from these situations.
Children who have siblings working through addiction or mental health are 63% more likely to report having depressive episodes (at least two weeks) in their lifetime. Sometimes the siblings of teens can take on a bigger sense of responsibility and even begin caring for, protecting, or feeling responsible for the teen experiencing issues.
There are a few ways parents can ensure they care for not only the child in crisis, but for their other children as well, such as making sure each child feels loved and heard. This can be accomplished by enrolling children in regular therapy sessions, or even routinely checking in, and having honest discussions about how they feel.
Ways to support other children in the home are to have routine and structure in the family. For example, it helps when children are able to know what to expect when times get hard, and more importantly, that they feel safe. Parents can also involve their children in activities that take place in a setting outside of the home, not only to get them involved in the community but to have a positive, uplifting experience away from a negative environment, especially during crisis episodes.
When one person in a family experiences mental health issues, everyone must act as a team to ensure the happiness and health of all family members. This can be done by getting parents to focus more on family as a whole, especially on siblings who require just as much care and attention as the person in crisis.
Sometimes mental health issues can take precedence over other matters, but learning how to have structure, involve children in activities away from negative behaviors and making sure siblings feel important are all great ways to be proactive.