Custom «Sibling's Perspectives on Their Sibling's Mental Illness and the Stigma Impact on Siblings of Patients with Mental Illness (Like Schizophrenia, Autism)» Essay Paper Sample

Sibling's Perspectives on Their Sibling's Mental Illness and the Stigma Impact on Siblings of Patients with Mental Illness (Like Schizophrenia, Autism)


Psychiatric disorders have been established to elicit feelings associated with discomfort and strangeness, which are likely to result in the social exclusion of individuals having mental illness, as well as their relatives. Such social exclusion can be attributed to lack of sufficient resources and information and the fatigue associated with caring for individuals having mental disorders. In addition, family members may also report a decline in their levels of self-worth and self-esteem, and can succumb to self-stigma. Family members of people having mental disorders can cause stigmatization. Stigma has been reported to be a significant barrier to seeking treatment, which reduces the chances of recovery for people having mental disorders (Iyer, Loohuis, Pawliuk, Joober, & Malla, 2011). In addition, stigma has been reported to be the leading factor causing social exclusion and discrimination. It occurs due to the fact that stigma negatively affects the self-esteem levels of an individual, can result in family dysfunction and hinders social functioning. According to Corrigan, Powell, and Rüsch (2012), such discriminative behaviors are relatively stronger for individuals diagnosed with mental disorders such as schizophrenia, due to their disruptive symptoms.

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The manner in which the society perceives and deals with stigma depends significantly on the historical conceptualization of mental disorders and madness. At the nuclear family level, such conception draws upon the myths of dangerousness and irreversibility associated with severe mental disorder. Presently, the conceptions hinder the recovery chances and functional competencies of individuals having mental disorders (Segalovich, Doron, Behrbalk, Kurs, & Romem, 2013). Moreover, the social stigma associated with mental disorders does not only affect individuals with the mental disorders, but also affects caregivers, family members and other individuals having close relationships with the person having mental illness -  a phenomenon referred to as associative stigma. Associative stigma is characterized by a decline in self-worth and self-esteem, as well as self-stigma among members of the family. About 70 percent of family members are of belief that individuals having severe mental disorders tend to be depreciated by society. As a result, the effect of such stigmatizing attitude extends to members of the family. Studies have documented the negative effects associated with stigma on relatives of patients suffering from schizophrenia, including quality of life, well-being, interpersonal relationships and sleep patterns (Sousa, Marques, Rosário, & Queirós, 2012).

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From different perspective, the family itself can play the role of a stigmatizing agent, which can be attributed to a number of factors, including fatigue associated with caring for people with mental disorders and lack of sufficient resources (Rüsch, et al., 2014). When the family acts as the stigmatizing agent, social exclusion behaviors and beliefs associated with impossibility of recovery of mental disorders are reinforced. As a matter of fact, mental disorders have been established to have an effect on family dynamics. For instance, the family is compelled to reorganize its routine in order to fulfill the roles and tasks of the mentally ill patient. In addition, the family must assist the patient. Such scenario results in tensions attributed to the fear of the unknown, which results in family members developing attitudes associated with conflict, indifference and protectionism and rejection (Werner & Shulman, 2013). Other impacts of mental illness on family burden include increased financial burden, emotional and physical distress. Due to the possibility of the family to act as the stigmatizing agent, interventions tend to focus on taking care of the family or the caregiver owing to the fact that they have a tendency to raise issues related to care giving. Such issues include providing social support for a family in order to lessen the burden placed on caregivers and reduce the tensions among family members. In addition, it is imperative for family members to publicly acknowledge their proximity to the mental illness and oppose the shame silence that often accompanies the family members of an individual suffering from mental illness (Sousa, et a., 2012).

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A significant body of research has been devoted to the concerns raised by family members of individuals having a patient suffering from mental illness, particularly schizophrenia. Such concerns focus on the family burden and the impact on family stress when dealing with a family member having mental illness. In addition, past studies have focused primarily on self-esteem and stigma effects associated with mental illness. For instance, Segalovich, et al. (2013) explored the relationship between self-esteem, internalization of stigma and the ability of individuals having mental illness to develop intimate relationships with their loved ones. The authors reported significantly less internalization of stigma among hospitalized mentally ill than those living in the community. In another study to determine the predictors of empowerment and self-stigma among people having mental disorders, it was found that higher levels of stigma stress, shame and self-contempt resulted in more self-stigma (Rüsch, et al., 2014). The authors also reported a relationship between increased sense of empowerment and reduced levels of self-contempt and stress. In addition, the study reported that reduced sense of empowerment and higher levels of self-stigma were predictors of poor quality of life among patients having mental illnesses. Another research by Corrigan, et al. (2012) to investigate the relationship between public stigma and self-stigma found that public stigma is associated with self-stigma. Public stigma was defined as the effect that takes place when individuals having mental disorders embrace the discrimination and prejudice associated with their illness. Self-stigma was defined as the outcome associated with mentally ill individuals internalizing discrimination and prejudice (Corrigan, et al., 2012).  

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It is evident that current research has focused mainly on the self-stigma and public stigma associated with people having mental illnesses and the family burden imposed on the family members of a person with mental disorder. There is a little number of information regarding the self-perceptions of siblings of people having mental illness, including their self-esteem. Therefore, current study seeks to expand the scope of information regarding present topic by exploring the perspectives of siblings of people with mental illness and the respective stigma impact on them. Current study was designed to evaluate the following hypotheses. First, it is expected that the siblings of individuals suffering from mental illness will have negative perceptions of themselves. Negative perceptions of themselves will be conceptualized in terms of self-stigma among siblings of mental ill individuals. Stigmatizing attitudes among family members of a person with a mental disorder have been reported in a number of studies, such as Rüsch, et al. (2014) and Werner and Shulman (2013). Therefore, it is anticipated that the stigmatizing attitudes result in negative perceptions of siblings of mentally ill patients. Second, it is anticipated that siblings of mentally ill individuals will have lower self-esteem. Reduced self-esteem has been documented in families taking care of an individual with a mental illness due to the emotional distress and public stigma associated with mental illness (Rüsch, et al., 2014; Werner & Shulman, 2013). In order to test the hypotheses, the levels of self-esteem and stigma among siblings of mentally ill patients will be compared with individuals who do not have siblings suffering from mental illness. Based on the review of literature, the following are the specific hypothesis that will be tested in current study:

  1. Siblings of patients with mental illness will have negative self-perceptions;
  2. Siblings of patients with mental illness will have reduced self-esteem.

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