WBZ-TV: UMass Medical School support program helps siblings of children with mental illness

Dec 31, 2015
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Matters Of The Mind: Support Program Helps Siblings Of Mental Health Patients

By Jennifer Rosinski

A UMass Medical School program that supports the brothers and sisters of those who receive in-patient psychiatric care has had a profoundly positive effect on the Cummings family of New Hampshire, according to WBZ-TV.

"Wednesday nights kind of became our night to go together to the hospital and that was the start of a new relationship for us, a very close relationship," Rebecca Cummings told WBZ-TV about her involvement with the Sibling Support Program. Cummings and her youngest daughter, Marcie, participated while her older daughter was in the hospital receiving care for mental health needs. "We were bonded in our sadness and we had to sort of reinvent things."

The Sibling Support Program from UMass Medical School's Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center was created by Emily Rubin, MA, a lecturer in psychiatry at UMass Medical School. It is currently being offered at Cambridge Health Alliance and Franciscan Hospital for Children to families of children who have been admitted the hospitals' mental health units.

"The goals are to build resiliency and decrease trauma, primarily among siblings, but also among all family members, also to build parental competency and confidence," Rubin told WBZ-TV.

Trained parent mentors run psycho-educational groups for parents, and clinicians and trainees run the groups where siblings can process their trauma and learn coping skills.

"Parents are doing the best job they can," Rubin told WBZ-TV. "But usually in these families, there's so much chaos and drama around the child with mental health issues, that the siblings’ voices really don't get heard and their needs don't get met."

More resources can be found in this brochure, Supporting Siblings of Children with Mental Health Needs, written by Rubin for the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Network.

© 2015 University of Massachusetts Medical School