This current week has been National Carers Week. We took this chance to get in touch with Brighton organisation Sibling Link – find out more about what they do here.
Why did we start Sibling Link? We (Tash and Bex) were mates with very ill brothers. Chatting over multiple beers about it, meant that we had inadvertently created our very own peer support group. We laughed a lot together, cried buckets (standard) but above all, felt extremely lucky to have had each other to lean on.
My story (Bex)
My brother Alistair was my best friend. We were triplets, really close and had the same gang of friends and sense of humor. He was really funny, clever and had a host of his own close friends too. He was always the life and soul of the party and was a good friend to many. He was ultra clever and wrote for children’s TV. Life was normal for a long time. We supported each other through the normal ups and downs, socialized together and laughed together.
At the age of 26 Ali had his first breakdown. This was my first glimpse of his collapse. He went from being fine, to not being able to cope with life. He made attempts to end his life and couldn’t stop the worries from circling around his head. I had never seen anyone so poorly and felt extremely scared and responsible for his recovery.
This was to be the first breakdown that would repeat each year. Every year was slightly worse, then he would nearly recover and return to normal life. But we had lost the Ali that we knew five years previously when his debilitating anxiety had started. Five years later Ali took his own life. That shock and disbelief is still with me now.
Grief moves. Grief is raw to start and then you get used to it being in your life. I will always grieve for Ali. That will not change – the grief is easier now than it was at the start. But when I think of the day. The trauma of that day. That doesn’t move. That won’t change. That still shocks me. And I won’t forget a minute of it.
Tash absolutely understood what we were going through when Ali was poorly, supported me and gave me hope and strength.
She helped me with the mental health system and told me about groups and organizations that were in place to help people like Ali.
I didn’t have to explain how it felt to go through this. It was okay to talk about it, and boy did it help. Tash’s experience of her own brother’s mental ill health gave me a huge amount of comfort and strength and I no longer felt on my own. Her support was invaluable during and after his illness.
If you have a brother or sister affected by mental ill health, you will have experienced some distress.
We run two peer support groups for adults; one for those who are caring for, affected by or worried about their sibling who is experiencing mental ill health. The other is specifically for those of us – not limited to siblings – who have been bereaved by suicide. The focus is on talking and listening.
We are now meeting on Zoom each month during the Covid pandemic. It is a very warm and supportive space where you can share your feelings in a safe space.
If you would like to find out more information about Sibling Link please visit www.siblinglink.co.uk