it’s okay to be Mormon and depressed?

I caught this article in the MormonTimes today: Mormons don’t get depressed? It’s an MD saying that it’s okay to be depressed, be on medication, and be Mormon. While I don’t think this is a stunning reversal of any official Mormon positions, I have to wonder if this is kind of an informal means of spreading a new “quasi-official” position of the LDS Church: Have an authority (admittedly, a pediatrician isn’t an authority on depression, but close enough, I guess…) make the recommendation in the official Mormon online news source. Thoughts?


I'm a college professor and, well, a professional X-Mormon. Thus, ProfXM. I love my Mormon family, but have issues with LDS Inc. And I'm not afraid to tell LDS Inc. what I really think... anonymously, of course!

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9 Responses

  1. Hellmut says:

    We need to distinguish more carefully between doctrine and social practice. If actions speak louder than words then social practices are more important than doctrines.

    That’s all the more true because no one knows what Mormon doctrine is.

  2. aerin says:

    This is really interesting, thanks for sharing profxm. I do support any attempts to change the stigma surrounding mental health.

    While I agree that depression is partially bio-chemical – I note that cognitive behavioral therapy is not included in this article – or expanded on in the article. He briefly mentions mental help but doesn’t explain what he means.

    There is no mention of working on outlook, feelings and behaviors with a licensed therapist or social worker to combat depression. I’m pretty certain that many accredited professional studies sometimes do recommend medication BUT ALSO recommend talk therapy for some types of depression and mental illnesses.

    He also didn’t qualify anything about abuse – which from my limited experience can also be inter-related. Telling an abuse victim they simply need to take medication and not work through what happened to them (or get out of the abusive situation)…well, it’s not helpful to say the least.

    And some people may not need medication for depression if they are able to make real changes in their lives INCLUDING setting boundaries. Those boundaries might include not always obeying priesthood authority, the mere suggestion of which can trouble some active members.

    But this is a semi-official change – which I applaud. Praying and reading the scriptures were counseled for depression for years instead of taking medication. So baby steps.

  3. chanson says:

    Aerin makes some very good points here.

    It’s a positive development to work on eliminating the stigma of needing to take medication for mental health. However, Mormons are already very trusting of standard medicine, hence they’re already fairly willing to accept the idea “My doctor tells me I have a condition that requires medication, therefore I take my medication,” rather than blaming themselves for taking/needing medication.

    The other types of problems Aerin lists — things that require cognitive behavioral therapy and perhaps new personal life strategies — are far more taboo than chemical/biological depression. Those types of problems are more taboo because they threaten the church’s claims of having the answers for true joy and fulfillment.

  4. Hellmut says:

    I agree. It’s a step in the right direction but the organization’s and the brethrens’ interests still take precedence before the health of the members.

  5. Craig says:

    I don’t think there is any meaningful difference between “official” doctrine and social practises/folk doctrine. The doctrine is whatever the members believe it is, and is therefore very fluid and mutable, and differs from population to population.

    Doctrines change constantly – though mostly unofficially because the church loves to pretend it is an unchanging institution. Generally the just stop teaching/talking about a doctrine for a few decades and then never mention it again, and pretend they never/deny they ever taught it, despite obvious evidence to the contrary – because anything the prophet/apostles say obviously outweigh silly things like evidence and reality.

    So if some Mormons think it is doctrinal that depression isn’t a “real” illness (which I do know some do), then it is doctrinal, for them. If others say that the church has no position and believe it to not be doctrinal, then for them it isn’t. Doctrine in Mormonism (or any church) isn’t only formed by official pronouncements by the church leaders, but by anything that enters the collective consciousness of any group of Mormons. There are enough myths and legends and once “official” doctrines that are all believed with the same veracity as “Jesus is the Messiah, died on the cross and atoned for the world’s sins” to make the difference meaningless.

  6. Sabayon says:

    Hmm, I have to agree with Aerin, while it’s definitely a good thing to reduce stigma around mental illness doing so by couching it in strictly neurological terms seems misguided. The article makes passing mention of therapy and “emotional trauma” *coughabusecough*, the main point is that depression is just like high cholesterol, just take a pill and fix it. I know that depression meds work more quickly than therapy, but the fix in therapy last mostly for life, so most psychologists suggest to use both. I am also kind of disturbed to here a pediatrician saying this as teens are more likely to kill themselves after going on anti-depressants and pediatricians are told to avoid prescribing anti-depressants to their patients.

  7. Mel says:

    My last bishop preached, from the stand, while bishop and before as a high councillor, that depression was only caused by sin. And no, I’m not paraphrasing; that’s exactly what he said. On multiple occasions.

    Leaders like him will easily ignore the quasi-official position, because it didn’t come from the Prophet himself at General Conference. IMHO, anyway.

  8. Hellmut says:

    That’s the problem with inspiration. Any fool can justify his prejudices and superstitions because they make him feel good.

  9. Hellmut says:

    I do want to give the Brethren and the LDS bureaucrats credit though. They are trying to do the right thing. It’s important to acknowledge that.

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