Mental Health in the Church: Suggestions for Leaders

August 23, 2004 | 31 comments
By

Before my time as guest blogger expires (thanks, Kaimi, for the opportunity!), there’s a serious issue that I’d like to raise, especially for you who are or who will be leaders in the Church. The issue is mental illness. Very few of us have had any training in recognizing and dealing with mental illness, but there is a great need. I would especially urge bishoprics, Relief Society presidents, and other leaders to learn about mental illness and look for its symptoms. Stake leaders, it may be helpful to provide more training abvout mental from competent sources for your leaders so they can better deal with the many forms of mental illness that afflict some of our members.

I think my biggest surprises when I was a bishop came from experiences with those who suffered from various forms of mental illness. Some had kept their suffering hidden for years without ever getting help, but how much help was needed all that time. The most serious problems involved those who had been abused as children. I could spend hours writing about what a hell sexual abuse creates for its victims, and how it can inflict such terrible and lasting harm on the human mind. For example, I am absolutely convinced of the reality of multiple personality disorder (an amazing way for the mind to protect itself in the worst of times). Dealing with it in depth as a frightened and inexperienced bishop was one of my most painful and rewarding experiences, a journey that showed me in profound ways just how loving and real and merciful our Savior is, and how great His love is for those who have suffered the most.

Brothers and sisters, it is possible that virtually every ward and branch has at least one victim of sexual abuse in dire need of your help. It is possible that every unit has or will have someone on the verge of suicide, in great need of your help. If the Lord puts you in a place where that person can reach out to you, it is vital that you listen. If someone tells you something that smacks of mental illness, that seems crazy, it may be vitally important for you to listen and to take them seriously. Only then will you be able to learn what they might really need and then help them get the help they need.

Leaders, know that for victims of abuse, authority figures can be terrifying people. Do not be offended if a member seems afraid of you or very easily becomes angry or upset at you. Relax, and accept that they may have a real problem. Do not try to use logic and persuasion to get them to “act normal” – give them space and acceptance, and perhaps in time they may trust you enough to share what they are going through. Do not corner them or do anything to make them feel trapped (that’s a good reason for being behind a desk in interviews, away from the door).

I think one of my biggest mistakes in the Church came from not recognizing signs of mental illness in a member and trying too hard to get them to see things “normally.” I only made things worse and created more distance and more pain. And some of my most important accomplishments – or rather, some of the Lord’s biggest miracles that I did not mess up – came when I accepted others’ “dysfunctional” behavior as a genuine problem that was not their fault (I’m not expressing this quite right – it’s difficult). That opened the door for a series of incredible experiences that made the Atonement more real and powerful than it had ever been before to me.

Whether it is caused by abuse, by physiology or other factors, mental illness is just as real and as debilitating as cancer or a broken leg or blindness, and needs to be approached with the same love and compassion as you would treat victims of physical injuries or disease. We must not judge victims of mental illness or look down on them any more than we would someone who had been hit by a car. It may be impossible for us to grasp the pain and the barriers that others suffer, but with the help of the Spirit and the charity that comes from Christ, I believe Church leaders can be guided to properly minister to the mentally ill, though in many cases it is critical that we help them get professional help and not think that we can do it all or that the Church has everything they need.

Leaders, please don’t go into denial when there is some hint that someone in your stewardship may be a past or current victim of abuse. When you see people living in high risk situations (e.g., an adult male from outside the family living with a family with young girls), don’t turn a blind eye. Seek the Spirit, consult with appropriate experts as needed, and do what is right. High risk situations often lead to tragedy, and sometimes you can help prevent it, or at least help the healing process.

I am so grateful to a few key members of my ward who helped me understand the terrible problems that victims of child abuse can suffer throughout their lives. I marvel at the courage and faith of those who have done all they can to move ahead with their lives after going through hell, and hope that their healing can continue. I am so grateful for the reality of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His infinite love, and His ability to wipe away all tears.

On a final note, there are those who charge that the pressures of being a Mormon creates depression and other forms of mental illness in people. Certainly we need to recognize when someone is under too much pressure or has burdens too great and do all we can to help and lighten those burdens, rather than expecting more. But I wholeheartedly believe that active participation in the Church and living the Gospel generally promotes good mental health, though some will say I’m crazy for thinking that way. For some background information and a couple of interesting studies, please see the section on mental health and suicide on my Mormon Answers Page of Facetious Questions, a page that actually contains some pretty serious information.

I would appreciate your suggestions on what we as members of the Church can do better to help those who suffer from various forms of mental illness. I know that some of you know a lot about this topic – I would really like to know more and get your insights. And if I’ve given any poor advice or said anything wildly incorrect or spoken insensitively, please help me out with your comments. This is an area where most of us still have a lot to learn.

Tags: , ,

31 Responses to Mental Health in the Church: Suggestions for Leaders

  1. Charles Sakai on August 23, 2004 at 10:28 pm

    I must link to this article on my http://www.ColoradoPsycho.com Web site! As a member of the LDS Church who’s suffered from depression all his life, I appreciate anyone who writes about this subject with insight & sensitivity.

    My research into our family history suggests that depression and bipolar disorder run in our family, and I mention this not to find fault with anyone, but to declare that we would have been better off if all those affected sought early treatment. One time I brought up this subject during a testimony meeting, and a couple of people from the congregation told me about their experiences. What’s more, I knew there were even more members of the Church out there who had experienced some kind of mental disorder.

    Of course, bishops without medical, psychological, or psychiatric training cannot be expected to dispense expert advice to members of their ward, but they should have access to those who are qualified to do so. Sometimes just a gentle nudge from someone a troubled member of the ward respects can make a big difference, and persuade him or her to seek professional help.

  2. Renee on August 23, 2004 at 11:33 pm

    Jeff, I have really appreciated your posts here. I won’t offer my personal thoughts on what we can do better as members because I don’t find T&S a safe and comfortable forum to be doing so.

    I will say in general terms that prayer is necessary to guide anyone dealing with a person struggling with mental illness. One of the greatest gifts of prayer is to gain empathy for those bound by these struggles.

  3. Jack on August 23, 2004 at 11:37 pm

    Jeff: Thankyou for that wonderful post. I’m still weeping.

    One of the most difficult challenges an individual may face, is coming to grips with the reality of personal mental illness. Thankfully, I’m able to report that my bishop and other local leaders have been very sensitive and supportive as I’ve struggled to put the pieces back together over the last year+.

    And yes, stay close to the church! There came a point where I could no longer function as the adult sunday school teacher in our ward. My mind simply could not pull the lesson material together. (This problem was manifest generally, not just in my calling) After almost a year without a calling – which, in my case was a prudent course – I’m now playing piano in the primary. Nothing could have been more inspired than putting me behind that piano! I love it.

    There has been much controversy over the long term effects of abuse during the last couple of decades – especially with regard to the problem of memory. Many of my own questions are still unanswered and are likely to remain so. But, this much I have been learning; the fall is real, agencey is real, and above all God’s love is real. And his love can, in time, overcome the effects of the fall and the abuse of agency.

    Thanks again, Jeff, for your thoughts. I don’t think that I’ve ever read anything more sincere here at T&S.

  4. Jeff Lindsay on August 24, 2004 at 12:36 am

    Thank you for these kind comments. How I wish that I and all of us could just live the Gospel better and follow the Spirit and the teachings of Christ – how much of the horror of man’s misuse of agency could be mitigated by more active love. I fall so so short, I’m sure we all do – but the model that Christ sets for us is so beautifully preserved (miraculously preserved) in the scriptures. We need to get past our pride and trivial pursuits and sense the bigger picture around us. The biggest issue that may be before some of us may not be the Kerry-Bush campaign or the stock market or even our own personal illness and grief, but the hint of sorrow in a child’s eyes, or the member who shyly sits in the back and looks away from your gaze. Sometimes the most severe and deadly wounds are ones that we cannot easily see.

  5. cooper on August 24, 2004 at 12:37 am

    Jeff great post as always. We’ve read your sites for years. You have great insight and I just have to say thank you for addressing this subject.

    Mental illness is an illness. Most people are so afraid of it, even when training is offered, seldom is anyone willing to participate and learn. My husband is one of three mental health professionals in our stake. While each is appreciated, there is still such a lack of understanding of how they can be effective in training bishops and other leaders how to recognize the facets of the diseases and how to help individuals and families deal with the illnesses involved. Your inclusion of abuse (of all kinds) is another form of mental illness that lies hidden for generations.

    I could write for days on this subject, but Renee articulated the comfort level of sharing here at T&S.

    Again thank you for bringing light to this most important subject.

  6. Jim Richins on August 24, 2004 at 1:09 am

    Three thoughts regarding your excellent (and remains desperately needed) message:

    1) I might go even further than comparing mental illness to a physical illness. In your post, you rightly point out that we would not look down on someone who had been hit by a car, so a similar attitude of compassion and empathy should be forthcoming in the case of mental illness. Unfortunately, a “stigma” sometimes manifests itself in the case of mental illness because those wounds are invisible. It’s easy to see the cuts or bruises that result from a car wreck – not so with a variety of mental illnesses. Add to this unfavorable balance, a general ignorance about mental illness and the variety of forms it can take – from many types of chronic depression, OCD, psychological trauma, etc. All of this adds up to the fact that leaders must make a special, additional effort in order to educate themselves, detect mental illness, and “nudge” the person in question in the right direction to get help.

    2) A lot of discomfort surrounding people who suffer from mental illness is due to the aberrant, seemingly irrational, or disproportionate behavior of the patient (maybe I will generically call the hypothetical person “patient” since “subject” sounds even less empathetic). A “normal” response to a patient who displays aberrent behavior is to shy away – give the person a wide berth. Unfortunately, this is often exactly opposite of what the patient needs, which is tolerance, patience, understanding, and love. You are exactly right to state that the patient may be less-responsible for his/her behavior – that it may not be their “fault.” Leaders must recognize the following Truth, that while it is true that God will not allow us to be tempted above that which we can bear, it is also true that it is possible for us, through our own bad decisions (or through the brutal actions of others before our mental and spiritual capacity has been fully developed), we can lose control of ourselves, and wind up in the power of the Adversary.

    That scripture from Paul (1 Cor 10:13) must not be used to justify a judgemental attitude towards a patient that displays aberrant behavior. Quite the opposite, all members should be willing to offer increased love and understanding to a patient who seems to be the square peg in a round hole (or worse, may even be openly hostile).

    3) I am particularly grateful that you raised the question about the high stress of living an LDS lifestyle being a source of increased incidence of mental illness among Latter Day Saints. This idea was published long ago by Louise Degn (sp?) as a documentary program. It was back in the 70’s/early 80’s, and was titled “Mormon Women and Depression.” I do not believe that Ms. Degn originated the idea, but only documented what may have been (and still is) a common belief.

    A fellow ward member of mine is a physician who works on Hill AFB (near Ogden, Utah). Last year, he and I got into a similar discussion, and he remarked that it was his understanding that Hill AFB prescribes more Prozac or other SSRI-type anti-depressants than any other Air Force base. His conclusion was the same, that the high standards of an LDS lifestyle, colliding with the overwhelming influence of the outside world, is the cause of this increased mental illness. However, he admitted that the Prozac prescription statistics he heard were from a second-hand source, and his evidence in treating patients and prescribing Prozac was anecdotal.

    I offered him my copy of “Religion, Mental Health, and the Latter Day Saints” – one of the series of books to come out of BYU (and then he was promptly deployed to South Korea for the last year). It was edited by Daniel K. Judd, and published in 1999. I also related to him some of the comments made to me by a good friend, a psychiatrist and Stake President, debunking this entire misconception.

    Statistically, Latter Day Saints actually enjoy a slightly healthier level of mental health than is the norm. Interestingly, the influence of religion alone, and not specifically the LDS Church, was found to have a positive effect on the population, but generally less than that of the restored gospel itself.

    What seems to happen, however, is that if there is a pre-existing condition or even just a tendency toward a mental condition, because of the large central focus the gospel occupies in the lives of the Saints, an LDS lifestyle frequently becomes the object associated with mental illness. Because the general population does not have such a “lightning-rod” attractor for the negative feelings resulting from mental illness, a simple comparison between members and non-members would superficially seem to indict involvement in the Church as the cause of the problem.

    However, as we can see from the overall statistics, this is not the case.

    In conclusion, I agree with your apparent assertion that Church Leaders should receive some additional training in learning to recognize and deal with mental illness. I also look forward to reading more informed responses on this critical issue.

  7. Gordon Smith on August 24, 2004 at 1:51 am

    Jeff, Nice post. No doubt we could all use more education about mental illness. My concern is with your recommendation for training (seconded by Jim), and a post by Nate last month, raising questions about the line between personal and corporate action. That line is pretty fuzzy, but formal training by the Church on mental health issues might raise an inference of Church control over local leaders in this realm, thus opening the Church to liability.

    This reminds me of a conversation that I had with a franchisor about anti-discrimination training for franchise managers. This is a big problem: an employee for Burger King or McDonald’s or whatever refuses to serve a minority patron, hurls a few epithets, etc. Then the franchisor is sued. You might think that the response would be increased training to head off such incidents, but this franchisor told me that training was the last thing they wanted to do. When they go to court, they want to be able to say that they cannot control this aspect of franchise employment.

    While I suspect that the Church could provide some training about recognition of mental illness or appreciation of the potential problems without facing large liability risks, we do not want amateur psychiatrists in the bishops’ offices. Sorry to play the lawyer, but it’s what I do.

  8. Ebenezer on August 24, 2004 at 2:13 am

    Thank you for posting this. This is an issue that is very important to me personally and to my family in multiple generations. May the Lord bless you.

  9. Don on August 24, 2004 at 3:11 am

    I think some training would be more than helpful and hopefully welcome. The minimum should train our Bishops and leaders to be careful not to provoke or help cause someone on the edge to go too far.

    Remarks made by our Bishop to our son were some of the things he mentioned, in later counseling sessions, that led him to try and commit suicide.

    Of course we don’t blame the Bishop, it wasn’t his fault, our son had many issues that led to his attempt.

    I don’t know that Bishop training would have prevented his attempt, but it would be nice to feel that a properly trained Bishop wouldn’t contribute to it either.

  10. Marc D. on August 24, 2004 at 9:36 am

    My wife suffers of manic depression and borderline and some other sicknesses. She was excommunicated for something she was not guilty of but because she was so depressed she was not able to defend herself. I had to fight for four years to get her membership restored.
    Because of this and other church experiences I began to study church history and found a lot of things I can not accept. I still go to church because I like the members but I do not believe the church is true anymore. When I told my wive what I had discovered she was relieved. She is doing a lot better now since she realizes that she doesn’t has to be perfect and pray for solutions that don’t come anyway.

  11. Jim Richins on August 24, 2004 at 10:38 am

    I appreciate your comments, Gordon, and agree with you. I should have been more clear. I believe the sort of training that the Church should offer leaders (not exclusively Bishops) maybe could be something similar to the following:

    1. Clear and accurate information regarding the phenomenon of mental illness in the Church.
      1a. basic background information for mental illness in general
        1ai. various types and forms of illness
        1aii. how to recognize these illnesses
      1b. not an increased incidence of mental illness in the Church
        1bi. reasons that this misconception continues to perpetuate
        1bii. reasons to believe that LDS members generally enjoy a healthier, more stable mental state
      1c. in cases where mental illness exists, what kind of catalytic or antagonistic effect does the gospel have?
        1ci. effect of secular Mormon culture (especially in Utah e.g. “Utah Mormons”)
        1cii. doctrinal concerns (this is least likely, I think. Not many Mormons have obsessive, lingering fears about Hell, for example).
        1ciii. collision between LDS standards and influence of the world

    2. Correct doctrine regarding mental illness
      2a. 1 Cor 10:13 (and similar scriptures) – not justification for holding every person totally accountable for all their actions/mistakes
      2b. 2 Ne 26:22 – it IS possible for the Devil to gain control over us (“If they do not live up to every covenant… they will be in my power”)
      2c. reassure the patient that the Lord still loves and accepts him/her, will still redeem him/her, and the Plan of Salvation still applies despite mental or emotional challenges
      2d. help to recalibrate realistic expectations regarding answers to prayer, efficacy of Priesthood blessings, etc. (this one might sound controversal, but perhaps, if necessary, I can defend this point in another post).

    3. Specialist or additional resources
      3a. Bishops and other leaders who are not qualified to counsel in the case of mental illness by virtue of their profession or other extensive specialized training should NOT singlehandedly attempt counseling. Send the patient to a specialist!!
      3b. List/describe agencies or private practitioners who can offer qualified help, within the context of the Gospel
        3bi. LDS Social Services
      3c. where to find additional support for Bishops and other leaders (e.g. Church help line)

    I think a topic like this could be addressed very well in the world-wide training meetings the Church offers via satellite twice per year.

    Following upon your advice, Gordon, I would emphasize that the Bishop (or other leader) should NEVER attempt to offer any authoritative counseling that extends beyond strictly religious matters or beyond the purview and administration of the Spirit. Outside of this, leaders should offer as much personal support and understanding as possible, as any concerned friend or confidant would do.

  12. Gordon Smith on August 24, 2004 at 11:58 am

    Jim, Well done. After my recent brush with this, I definitely feel like I have an inadequate understanding of mental illness. For many days, I was asking everyone I know, “what do we do?” It was pretty tough to find someone who was confident about a path we should take. And honestly, if this came up again, I still wouldn’t know what to do.

  13. greenfrog on August 24, 2004 at 12:25 pm

    Gordon,

    I think that the role crafted for a bishop within the LDS Church is such that all you can do as a lawyer is minimize the risks — you can’t eliminate them.

    Jim Richin’s point highlights this: I would emphasize that the Bishop (or other leader) should NEVER attempt to offer any authoritative counseling that extends beyond strictly religious matters or beyond the purview and administration of the Spirit.

    For the mentally ill, there is no line between “strictly religious matters” and their perceptions of the world around them. Nor is it meaningful to try to distinguish between the “administration of the Spirit” and actions that can shape and, at times, contort the perceptions of a mentally ill person.

    Can a bishop be absolved (legally absolved, that is — I leave spiritual decisions to those charged with making them) of responsibility for seeing a person in the depths of despair and telling the person that s/he needs to repent of accumulated prior sins? That is typically thought to be good spiritual counsel. Yet, in a particular case, it could precipitate even deeper despair and suicide. Can we say, “the bishop didn’t know that his actions were affecting the person’s perceptions of her/himself?” Surely not — that was precisely what the bishop intended to do.

    Depression is one end of the spectrum. The other is mroe sensationalized — a bishop in his role as Judge in Israel decides that a sex offender has sufficiently repented of prior conduct to consider the slate “wiped clean,” and calls him to be the deacon’s quorum advisor and Scoutmaster. I don’t think that judges or juries are likely to buy the “we can’t train or control bishops on such matters.” Our current construct of the role of bishop may transform, given the developments in evaluating mental health and our evolving legal standards.

    The proposed “head-in-the-sand” solution that may work for racial discrimination cases at a Burger King seems less palatable when applied to a bishop of a large, wealthy, and relatively sophisticated organization like the LDS Church.

    Besides, should we prefer to have well intentioned but misguided persons exacerbating mental health issues so long as we get the right result if we have to talk with a jury?

  14. Jack on August 24, 2004 at 1:36 pm

    Jim: R.e., line 2b (excellent comment by the way!), for those struggling with BPD or MPD this fact can be horrifying.

    The conduit of inspiration for such victims can become so terribly cluttered with skewed thoughts and emotions that at times it seems virtually impossible to discern true inspiration. It is my opinion that those whose condition has been induced by abuse will undoubtedly suffer from some degree of self-hatred. (Not to lessen the difficulties of those who are induced chemically)

    Even when such are sincerely striving to live the gospel the burden of self-hatred can become so great as to cause one to believe that he/she is out of favor with God and therefore in the devil’s domain. To further complicate the issue, one may also feel compelled by the voice of self hatred to atone repeatedly in strange over-zealous ways for deficiencies which need no repentance, thereby strengthening the belief that the adversary is forever at one’s heels.

    I guess what I’m trying say (and failing miserably) is that, yes we can be overcome if we do not watch ourselves, but we also need to remember that these situations can be more complex than many (IMO) would like to believe. I once heard a man berate himself infront of a congregation during a fast and testimony meeting for attempting to cast an evil spirit out of his grandson. He explained that the boy had a severe mental/chemical(?) disorder which he had mistaken for possession. Sadly the disorder eventually took the boy’s life.

  15. Jack on August 24, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    greenfrog: I too agree with Jim and therefore agree, generally, with your last comment. However, it is my understanding that a sex-offender, though judged worthy of full(?) fellowship, can never again serve in a position which requires close association with youth or primary age children.

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  16. Janey on August 24, 2004 at 3:12 pm

    Thanks for this thread. This is an issue that needs to be discussed. I’d like to offer a comment on one point, from Jeff Lindsay’s summary of training:

    “1c. in cases where mental illness exists, what kind of catalytic or antagonistic effect does the gospel have?
    1cii. doctrinal concerns (this is least likely, I think. Not many Mormons have obsessive, lingering fears about Hell, for example).”

    Doctrinal concerns were central to my episode with depression. In a church that teaches that a woman’s most important role is to be a wife and mother, finding out that you can’t be in this role can be a catalyst for depression. It took a long struggle to decide that the Brethren are wrong; a woman’s most important role is to be a follower of Christ. I am not less valuable because I am not a wife and mother. (Not to denigrate women who are, because those are extremely important roles.)

    Defining a woman’s contribution to the kingdom of God by the existence of a righteous husband and well-behaved children is bound to lead to depression when the fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending, or doesn’t happen at all.

    My depression was “moderate” and of relatively short duration (couple of years), and I had good professional help. I also had a kind bishop, who never really said anything useful, but did give priesthood blessings that were full of love.

    My heart goes out to those who are struggling with a lifetime of depression, or who have been abused.

  17. greenfrog on August 24, 2004 at 3:17 pm

    Jack,

    I believe that you are correct. That is a change in the discretion previously allocated to bishops that has come, I believe, as a result of the daylight shed on the situation by recent litigation.

    How might our society further shape the role of a bishop?

  18. MDS on August 24, 2004 at 3:28 pm

    Here in Las Vegas, LDS Social Services has a monthly training that addresses an issue relevant to their fields of responsibility. Anyone is allowed to attend, although it is certainly geared towards leadership, particularly Bishops and RS presidents. Sessions are held at 7AM and 7PM to accommodate schedules. The training is much like that outlined by Jeff. One thing I have really appreciated is they usually address common mistakes made by church leaders in counseling someone struggling with X. I have found these sessions extraodinarily helpful. It is clear that lots of time and preparation has gone into them. I have attended presentations by other offices of LDS Social services that were nowhere near as current, relevant, helpful, or even charitable. We’ve got a good thing going and I hope they continue it.

  19. Jim Richins on August 24, 2004 at 4:59 pm

    My apologies, Janey, for the oversight. However, allow me to restate that line to be more accurate to my intent, which is to say “*correct* doctrinal concerns” are, IMO, unlikely to cause mental illness problems. As you indicated in your post, you discovered that the doctrine that “a woman’s contribution to the kingdom of God [is defined] by the existence of a righteous husband and well-behaved children” is incorrect doctrine, and thereby overcame the relatively mild and transitory depression that you were suffering.

    However, your posting underscores the fact that false doctrine can have a terrible effect on the mental health of a member. In this case, a Bishop is the perfect counsellor to approach, as he should be able to alleviate the confusion and “solve” the problem. I am certain that false doctrine, which creeps in among us all the time, is a very effect tool of the Adversary.

    That being said, I am also a little surprised that your former Bishop did not “say anything useful”, when it seems he could have easily addressed the confused doctrine. I can’t help but wonder at the social context in which you suffered, and whether it would be outdated by todays standards.

    Finally, let me also state that I believe that “mental illness” describes a wide, wide range of mental or emotional challenges, just as there are so many different types of physical ailments. We should not allow the term “mental illness” to suggest the stereotypical adult male, living in his parent’s basement, indexing and cross-referencing his collection of Star Trek DVDs (actually, I may be describing myself at a certain point in my life).

    There are too many stereotypes associated with the heavily-laden term “mental illness.” It is not fair to say that all people – not even most – who suffer from mental illness are unable to distinguish between religious and secular matters in their perceptions of the world. Many people who have some sort of mental illness function normally, and such an illness is undetectable to the people around them (sometimes, even themselves).

    I am slightly overweight, and therefore physically unhealthy. However, I am not physically unhealthy to the point that I would be denied life insurance. In fact, I am well within 1 standard deviation of the norm in terms of BMI. In the same way, probably all people could be considered slightly mentally ill. In my case, my wife might debate that I am within 1 standard deviation of the norm on this, but I think my point is made.

    One can also understand my point by asking the question “what is normal?”

    There is much more to say about this, and I look forward to more enlightening responses.

    Jim

  20. Janey on August 24, 2004 at 6:00 pm

    Jim, pardon me for being thoroughly startled at your remarks. The social context of my experience was in Utah (where I have lived almost my entire life), and the timing is just in these last few years. The idea that a woman should be married and have children in order to be a contributing member of the Church is alive and well, not false doctrine creeping into the Church through the back door. My bishop couldn’t correct the ‘false doctrine’ because he didn’t think it was false. He assured me of the Lord’s love for single sisters, as well as married sisters, but that was not much comfort. (The Lord loves criminals too.)

    Up until a few months ago, I was exclusively a “chapel Mormon”. It has just been in the past few months, after my doctor and I found an effective dose of medication, that I had the energy to go online looking for different perspectives on women’s roles in the Church, because I knew I wasn’t going to last long as a Mormon with the doctrine I believed in before my depressive meltdown. Thank goodness for the Internet, and websites like this one. These sorts of discussions, as well as articles on women’s issues from FAIR, Dialogue and Sunstone, helped me reshape my view of the worth of a woman.

    God bless you for assuming that “a woman has to be married to be a good Mormon” is easily recognized as false doctrine.

  21. sid on August 25, 2004 at 10:39 am

    I understand Gordon’s concern about the legal ramifications of what providing training to Bishops, RS Presidents and others in leadership roles might be. However, I do think that the Leadership ought to at least be trained in t he sense so that they begin to look at mental illness as a real problem, and learn to deal with Brothers and Sisters afflicted with such problems with compassion, and to encourage the ill person to seek help from a mental health professional. Furthermore, I think all those Brothers called to be Home Teachers also ought to be informed about the issue of mental illness, so that if they see anything in t heir Home Teachees t hey can provide t he compassionate hand of friendship, and the support that people suffering from from mental illness so desperately need. and if we can create and provide a supportive and safe environment in our Wards, I am sure, we will be, able to be more Christ-like in t hat we will be helping our friends who are in need.

  22. greenfrog on August 25, 2004 at 11:34 am

    sid,

    Many of those with mental illness of one variety or another would prefer to manage their condition themselves and would be dismayed to have home teachers or other ward members getting “briefings” on their condition from leaders.

  23. cooper on August 25, 2004 at 12:01 pm

    Greenfrog while it is important to understand and keep confidential information confidential…
    Your attitude in keeping a mental illness hidden from the view of caring individuals is what keep the mentally ill from receivng help and being accepted. Of course not one person alive wants to know that they are the subject of random meetings at church, that is not what Sid is suggesting.

    I understand Sid to say that if something is suspected it should be talked about through appropriate channels; not at a ward council meeting, but with a private meeting with those who need to know.

    Mental illness is not always manifested by bizarre behavior. It is often found at home, in darkened rooms, with a feeling of loss and loneliness. As a person begins to succumb to the illness they also begin to disassociate with others. Social interactions become less frequent. It can last days, weeks, months and years. Home teachers and visiting teachers can be key in identifying and alerting caring professionals or Bishops in private.

  24. sid on August 25, 2004 at 1:02 pm

    greenfrog, sorry, if I wasnt quite precise in what I wanted to say. What I ment was this – that all HTs and others in positions of leadership ought to be made familiar with issues of mental illness. then , if they saw or noticed something, they could, in confidence, take the person aside and offer help, support and compassion, or if they happen to be Leaders at t he Bishop or RS Pres level, maybe they could have a heart-to-heart, private meeting, and offer their support and help.
    i did not mean that these issues were to be discussed in an open forum. Well, having dealt with certai n issues myself, i would be horrified if my problems and concerns were to be discussed in public, or say, even in a forum such as this -

  25. sid on August 25, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    I also second what cooper said – except she said it a lot better than I can!!! I have problems with seizures, and sometimes, my thoughts are a bit disjointed if I am trying to write something

  26. sid on August 25, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    I also second what cooper said – except she said it a lot better than I can!!! I have problems with seizures, and sometimes, my thoughts are a bit disjointed if I am trying to write something

  27. clark on August 25, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    Isn’t it church policy though, to direct members to mental health care professionals? It seems like most members won’t know what to do and even a few limited training sessions won’t help much beyond helping people *identify* mental illness. I think there is an assumption here that somehow this is the Bishop’s stewardship. But if we assume this then we really are setting ourselves up for a fall. Most Bishops simply are not able to deal with this. If they try they frankly may very well make things worse.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t have care for the mentally ill. However, in my experience, one has to be careful in this otherwise certain classes of the mentally ill will truly try and take advantage of you.

    Until medical science improves, I think there will be classes of the mentally ill that we simply will be limited in what we can do to help.

    That’s not to say we shouldn’t help them. There is a kid in my weblos den who I’d hazard a very good guess has a very bad case of Asberger’s Syndrome (sp?). It certainly will make things difficult due to the problems such people have in behaving appropriately socially. I’d hate to think how someone who doesn’t read much and has no idea about these issues would handle it. Heavens, I don’t even know if the parents recognize it for what it is.

  28. cooper on August 25, 2004 at 6:52 pm

    Clark there is no assumption that this falls under his stewardship. However, it does in a way. A Bishop is responsible for the well being – be it spiritual or temporal – of his congregation. This does not mean he needs to try to “diagnose or treat” a member suffering with problems.

    The most important thing a bishop can do is ask some questions. Simple questions. Not like, “hey how’re ya doing? Great! See ya next time I have a calling for you.” If you are any kind of genuine individual you can tell when something isn’t quite right. It isn’t a game of cat and mouse. It’s the ability to make someone feel that you really care, and they can say what needs to be said. It is the same with an individuals needs regarding repentance. If you get standard impersonal questions when trying to deal with problems of sin, how likely is someone going to go in for help. Sincerity is the key.

    The church is not asking for Bishops to be therapists. It does make church social services available to Bishop’s and Stake presidents when the need arises.

    The larger problems arise when a member is breaking laws. Then the Bishops are told to contact the S.P. and then he’s told to contact SLC. An attorney gives advice as to where to go next. This is where the church really gets into problems if people don’t know what they’re doing. Then there are those pesky mandatory reporters that get called to Bishoprics and High councils. They have to go to the police or governing authority, whether it’s child, elder or spouse abuse. Not to mention, sexual abuse of children. Most Bishops are not prepared to handle those problems at all.

    Best advice is to read Jeff’s first post. Use it as a guideline, and do your best to get to know your congregation if you’re ever called to serve in those capacities.

  29. Brian on September 2, 2004 at 11:17 am

    Janey, I think you miss understood the post talking about ” having a husband and weel behaved childeren to be a good member” being false doctirne. I see where you are coming from saying that womens role is to be maried and have children, but what I have been taught( I have only been a member for about a year) is that it should be a goal of a woman to have those things, and it is importaint, but it does not make a person a good or bad member of the church, some people have talents that they would not be able to share as well as if they were maried, and the most importaint thing is that if you live a righous life you will eventualy get to have a husband and children, maybe not in this life, but in the melinnium or in the afterlife.. I may be wrong, since I am not as well versed in the gospel as some, but this is how I understand it… please correct me if I am wrong…. I also agree with you about the most importaint thing is to follow christ.

  30. Brian on September 2, 2004 at 11:18 am

    Janey, I think you miss understood the post talking about ” having a husband and weel behaved childeren to be a good member” being false doctirne. I see where you are coming from saying that womens role is to be maried and have children, but what I have been taught( I have only been a member for about a year) is that it should be a goal of a woman to have those things, and it is importaint, but it does not make a person a good or bad member of the church, some people have talents that they would not be able to share as well as if they were maried, and the most importaint thing is that if you live a righous life you will eventualy get to have a husband and children, maybe not in this life, but in the melinnium or in the afterlife.. I may be wrong, since I am not as well versed in the gospel as some, but this is how I understand it… please correct me if I am wrong…. I also agree with you about the most importaint thing is to follow christ.

  31. Jim Younkin on February 18, 2006 at 9:15 am

    Jeff, I have enjoyed your writings for years. I had Depression for 6 years and still struggle with the after effects of it from time to time. I have been envolved with numerous LDS Depression E Mail Groups and am currently a Moderator for 2 such Groups. There are lots of people hurting out there, LDS or not. The problems of Depression will only increase. The biggest problem I had with my Depression was trying to find information about this disease, once I began to understand the cause of it I began to heal but the process was a long one. I have searched for links to LDS Social Services that help with Depression but found none? I feel Depression is very wide spread and needs to be discussed more openly in our meetings and among ourselves. A Friend, Jim
    Here is a Depression Group I am in:
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/The_Other_LDS_Depression_Newsgroup/
    Here is my Favorite site that explains Depression and how to overcome it.
    http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/