Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Mentally ill-Family relationships, Brothers and sisters, Families of the mentally ill, Well sibling, Mental illness


The purpose of this study is to examine the emotional and psychological effects well siblings encounter when a brother or sister is diagnosed with a major mental illness. Qualitative, exploratory interviews were conducted in person and audio-taped with 10 volunteers who were recruited from the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). Questions were aimed at developing a broader understanding of the feelings and experiences that may be unique to this vulnerable population. Major findings were consistent with previous research demonstrating reactions which are associated with the sudden rupture in a sibling relationship due to mental illness. In particular survivor guilt was a common characteristic described in multiple different examples. Other responses of guilt, sadness, grief, loss, shame and stigma were also highly prevalent. Personal accounts reveal that well siblings share many of the same feelings regardless of age or circumstances. The study concluded that experiences were overwhelmingly negative and well siblings also lack sufficient support. Suggestions for future research are discussed.




iii, 67 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 58-61)

Limited Access until August 2017