Livewire, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, today launched Livewire Siblings, a new online community, where young people aged over 10 and under 21, who have a brother or sister living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability can support and connect with one another.
Livewire Siblings ( http://siblings.livewire.org.au ) is a free, safe and supportive community where young people can meet and chat online with other siblings who understand what they are going through. The site allows them to share experiences as well as gain skills and knowledge to help them feel more in control of their situation.
Currently, there are approximately 585,000¹ siblings, aged over 10 and under 21, of people living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability in Australia. These young people often face unique teenage challenges, and suffer a heavy emotional burden – experiencing feelings of isolation from the rest of their family and their peers; as well as guilt, confusion, anger, jealousy.
Many siblings are as emotionally vulnerable as their brother or sister as they deal with feelings of loss, anger and sadness, and come to terms with the consequences of their family’s situation. What’s more, they often receive less parental attention than their ill siblings and take on increased household responsibilities as they help their parents cope with looking after their sick brother or sister.
Prominent child and adolescent psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, says “The sibling relationship is the single most important relationship that a chronically ill young person will have – in terms of its duration and intensity – and the psychological impact on the sibling can be as significant, if not more, than the psychological impact on the patient.
“Up until very recently, siblings needs have been overlooked and ignored, and I commend Livewire for recognising the importance of this formerly invisible group,” he concluded.
As part of Livewire Siblings, young people can chat online with other siblings, create blogs, read content and information created just for them, check out the latest music and games, post in forums and have their say!
“The launch of Livewire Siblings, signifies the next exciting step in Livewire’s goal to connect and support young Australians, aged over 10 and under 21, living with a serious illness, chronic health condition, and their families. Too often, the needs of siblings are forgotten in the wake of their brother or sister’s illness, yet there is an overwhelming need to connect and befriend others with similar experiences who understand their situation and can empathise,” says Omar Khalifa, Managing Director, Livewire.
“Livewire aims to fulfill their need to connect with others, providing a forum for self expression, and enabling them to work through the healing process by discussing issues, concerns, troubles and experiences,” he added.
Unlike other social networks, Livewire Siblings is a secure, moderated community tailored to the needs of its members. Livewire Siblings chat hosts and moderators are trained in adolescent health, and are online seven days a week to ensure that Livewire remains a supportive and fun place to be. Livewire works closely with the Australian Federal Police to help ensure all members of Livewire remain safe while engaging with the community.
This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Clever Networks program, Starlight and major partners. This funding has enabled Livewire to develop a long lasting, sustainable program that will connect, support and empower its members.
Livewire aims to connect 20,000 young people, siblings and parents by the end of 2009, and has engaged with over 80 other Not-for-Profit organisations to create a truly sector-wide capability. Livewire has already begun to work with Ability First, Diabetes Australia and Cystic Fibrosis to provide access to Livewire to its eligible members.
Any young Australian aged over 10 and under 21, who has a sibling currently living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability who wishes to join Livewire Siblings, or find out more information should visit www.livewire.org.au or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.