Sibling Support Research

The Sibling Support Program: A Family-Centered Mental Health Initiative was developed at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The project is currently implemented at Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) as an IRB-approved research study, as well as Worcester Recovery Center and the Center for Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (CANDO) as Quality Improvement (QI) initiatives. The project explores the impact of mental illness on typically developing siblings and caregivers of children with psychiatric needs.

Study goals are

  • to increase resiliency and mitigate the trauma commonly experienced by siblings of children admitted for psychiatric hospitalization
  • to build skills, competency and confidence among parents
  • to help restore family stability post-discharge
  • to build capacity among clinicians that practice family-centered mental health care

Interventions include psycho-educational groups for caregivers, and sibling support groups for children growing up alongside the patient. Participants complete surveys following the intervention to report on knowledge learned, satisfaction level, and behavioral change anticipated by the participant. Results suggest that a child’s mental illness can be traumatic for family members, and that sharing stories can alleviate the stress and anxiety related to living in a home with a child with mental illness. Over 2,400 participants have been enrolled in this innovative program that utilizes parent mentors and trainees across disciplines to deliver interventions, with high satisfaction scores among participants. The program serves as a training rotation for CHA psychiatry residents through Harvard Medical School.

Sibling Support Program publications