Families Coping with Mental Illness: Stories from the US and Japan

By Yuko Kawanishi | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Other Dimensions of Family
Interactions

Relationships Between Siblings

In addition to the husband–wife and parent–child dyad, the patterns of interactions and feelings within the subunit of siblings will definitely be disrupted and changed by the mental illness. Not only are parents worried about their own relationship with their healthy children, they are also concerned about any change that takes place among their children. However, they can only guess, being outside the siblings’ loop, as to how their children see one another and especially how the healthy children feel about the mentally ill sibling. Closeness and friendly relations seldom exist between the mentally ill child and the other children. The parents are well aware that their healthy children have been disturbed by their siblings’ mental illness and have struggled with it on their own. However, their attitude toward, or oftentimes their utter rejection of, the mentally ill sibling distresses most parents. At the same time, the parents also know that there is a limit to what the healthy siblings can do. The only thing the parents can do is to observe the situation and try to understand how it is affecting their healthy children.

It has been painful for Barbara Weiss to see how her children interact with one another. Her healthy sons want nothing to do with Jessica, their mentally ill sister. Barbara is sad but understands all too well how each son feels, which only puts her in the middle, feeling powerless. Glenda White

-91-

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