The article titled “I wanted to hide but also to be found”: the high school experiences of young adults who grew up in the same home as a sibling with depression” by Inbar Levkovich and Michal Labes (BMC Psychology, 2023) explores the often-overlooked experiences and struggles of individuals who grew up alongside a sibling suffering from depression during their formative high school years. The study delves into how these circumstances affected their emotional well-being, academic success, and relationships both inside and outside of school.
Background & Methods: The study recognizes that while much research focuses on the individuals directly affected by depression or their parents, the siblings’ experiences remain under-explored. Siblings often endure significant stress and emotional turmoil, which can affect various aspects of their lives, including their relationships, responsibilities, and health. This qualitative study involved in-depth semi-structured interviews with 21 young adults aged 18–29 who grew up with a sibling with depression, aiming to provide a retrospective insight into their high school experiences.
Results: Three main themes emerged from the interviews:
- School as a Place of Refuge: Many participants viewed school as a temporary escape from the chaotic home environment. They often put on a facade of being ‘perfect students’ to avoid additional attention and conflict. However, this refuge also meant that their struggles were invisible to others, leaving their calls for help unanswered.
- Invisibility to Adults at School: Participants reported limited and superficial interaction with the school’s educational staff. Attempts to seek help or share their family situation were often met with misunderstanding or dismissal, leading many to stop seeking support from school adults altogether.
- Fear of Stigmatization Among Peers: Most participants concealed their family situation from peers, fearing stigma, misunderstanding, and violation of their sibling’s privacy. This secrecy led to isolation and an absence of peer support, although a few who did share their experiences with friends found it relieving and helpful.
Discussion & Implications: The study highlights the dual nature of school as both a refuge and a place of invisibility for these individuals. It underscores the importance of a supportive and understanding environment in schools for siblings of individuals with mental illnesses. The findings suggest a need for more proactive, sensitive approaches by school staff and peers to recognize and support these hidden sufferers. Furthermore, the study emphasizes the potential positive and negative impacts on siblings, ranging from increased empathy and independence to significant emotional and academic challenges.
Conclusion: The research offers valuable insights into the complex experiences of individuals who grow up with a sibling suffering from depression. It sheds light on the need for greater awareness, support, and tailored interventions to address the unique challenges faced by these often-invisible family members.
Levkovich, I., & Labes, M. (2023). “I wanted to hide but also to be found”: the high school experiences of young adults who grew up in the same home as a sibling with depression. BMC Psychology, 11(190). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-023-01234-y