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As an older brother of two sisters, I take great pride in and value the responsibilities that come along with the role. Being their brother is a lifelong bond that is unmatched and quite difficult to put into words, but those who know, know. As big brothers, our natural inclination is to be a source of strength and protect our siblings by any means necessary when the time calls. But what do you do when a situation is out of your control and all you can do is cope with circumstances?

My sister, Nicole (27), lives with a combination of severe mental challenges — specifically schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Like many others in her unstable condition, she’s oftentimes in denial about her issues, thus making it difficult to provide the professional attention and consistent treatment she needs. The feelings of helplessness as a loved one battles through breakouts and manic states is something I wish upon no one. And although mental health remains a taboo topic in my community, I know I’m not the only one going through this. Too often, communities of color lack access to proper resources to combat their challenges. Or even worse, they’re stigmatized — viewed as weak — for seeking outside support. There is no discussion, no room for tears or visible distress. These attitudes and social norms  trap folks, like my sister and my family, into remaining silent. It’s time we shift that narrative.

Just as important as acknowledging the illness, identifying ways to overcome the inevitable obstacles you’ll encounter is also vital for anyone supporting a loved one living with mental challenges. Below are a few personal recommendations I felt may be useful for individuals in similar circumstances: