Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lesson: Mental Health and the Gospel

Devon gave a great 5th-Sunday combined RS/PH lesson. Here are the notes from her lesson. I didn't edit much, so you'll get the full lesson and MORE. Please discuss this important topic with your family and friends. e

Mental Health: Finding Understanding and Hope

Alison Cooke has been to see her bishop at least ten times in the past two years. She has served a mission and is now Relief Society president in her university singles ward. But somehow she can’t overcome an agonizing feeling deep in her heart that the Lord doesn’t really love her, and it is interfering in her desire to accept dates and even imagine thinking about marriage someday.

Life seems to be getting too fast and too complex for Bill Oatley. He has a calling in the Elder's quorum, a business of his own, a growing family, and a marriage that could use some attention. Each morning he carefully marks his planning calendar. But each night he lies in bed with a racing mind, a churning stomach, and the uncomfortable feeling that he isn’t quite making it, and he doesn’t know how long he can keep up before he just can’t do it anymore.

When Marion Caulfield’s children were small, she felt fulfilled as a wife and mother. But now her oldest son has postponed his mission indefinitely. And her oldest daughter is getting more and more involved with a nonmember boyfriend. Heartsick, Marion alternately blames herself and lashes out at her children. She grieves over their choices and fears what the future may bring.

These are fictional examples, but they represent the many members of the church who are suffering from types of mental illness.

When we say Mental Health or Mental Illness, what exactly are we talking about?

Anxiety Disorders (OCD, PTSD), Mood Disorders (Clinical Depression, Mania), Psychotic Disorders (Schizephrenia, Phobias/Disorders, etc……we all have moments when we’re not feeling very mentally healthy, but mental illness is when these things inhibit a person’s ability to cope and function normally, and it generally persists for longer than just “having a bad day.”

Depression: Everyone feels blue from time to time but when feelings of sadness, hopelessness and even thoughts of death cloud your daily life it's not the blues—it's clinical depression. An estimated 14.8 million Americans ages 18 and older suffer from major depression, a mood disorder that when left untreated can be chronic, recurrent and disabling.

Anxiety is a normal human emotion that we all experience. But when panic and anxiety symptoms escalate into anxiety attacks and panic attacks, it may be an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and panic disorder. There is excellent treatment for anxiety attacks, as well as panic attack symptoms, including medication and psychotherapy.

Chronic stress may boost anxiety. There can be effects of constant stress on hormones—that can lead to anxiety disorder. Many factors can cause anxiety, including mental conditions as well as external factors like personal finances or marital problems.


According to the National Institute of Mental Health approximately 26.2 percent of American adults will have a psychiatric disorder that is severe enough to be diagnosed.

How many people in our ward are suffering from some form of mental illness? One? Two? None? Chances are good that your estimate is too low. Many of us don’t realize how widespread mental illness is, partly because it shows few physical signs.

“Victims of mental illness, for the most part, look normal,” explains the mother of a young woman who has been in and out of hospitals with depression. “They don’t limp or stutter. The scars are on the inside.” But many victims feel pain and confusion so great that life is almost unbearable. And family members of the victim often suffer grief and isolation as they struggle to understand the nature of their loved one’s illness and search for ways to help. (Mental Illness: In Search of Understanding and Hope, Jan Underwood Pinborough, Ensign, Sept 1990)

WHY are we talking about this at church?  

Because we have made covenants to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort, and frankly, members of our wards and families need us to comfort them and understand them. They don’t need us to judge, belittle, or ignore cries for help.  

If the Savior were here, I believe he would be helping heal a lot of the mental illnesses that we suffer from, not just the solely physical ones. And possibly that healing would occur simply by listening to someone and praying for them with all our hearts. 

If you don’t know of someone that you can actively help, then simply try to educate yourself a little better about some of the things we’ll be talking about today so that when the time comes that you are asked to home or visit teach someone who is currently suffering, that you will be prepared to really give effective assistance! This really does affect all of us, and if you haven’t realized that it’s because you may not have been paying attention. 

Increasing our understanding of mental illness helps us reach out with love and compassion to those who are suffering.

Myths and misconceptions

Myths and misconceptions about mental illness unfortunately are found among Latter-day Saints just as they are in the general public. These harmful attitudes include the following (Myths about Mental Illness, Elder Alexander B. Morrison, Ensign, April 2005)

Myth #1. All mental illness is caused by sin.

Make no mistake about it—sin, the deliberate breaking of God’s commandments, does indeed result in behavior that is hurtful to self and to others. And for every transgression there must be a consequence or punishment. The demands of justice are inexorable, unless the person concerned invokes the power of the mercy provided by Christ’s Atonement by repenting of the sin and recognizing Christ as his Savior.

The power of sin to harrow up the soul is vividly exemplified by the words of repentant Alma:
I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. … I was tormented with the pains of hell. … The very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body (Alma 36:12–15).
Those who, like Alma, experience sorrow during the repentance process are not mentally ill.

If their sins are serious, they do require confession and counseling at the hands of their bishop. As part of his calling, each bishop receives special powers of discernment and wisdom. No mental health professional, regardless of his or her skill, can ever replace the role of a faithful bishop as he is guided by the Holy Ghost in assisting Church members to work through the pain, remorse, and depression associated with sin.

That being said, however, it must be emphasized that in many instances aberrant thoughts, actions, and feelings result from mental illness and not from sin. They come from disease, not transgression. They are not God’s way of punishing the sinner. To assume they are is not only overly simplistic but also contrary to the teachings of the Church.

The truth is that many faithful Latter-day Saints who live the commandments and honor their covenants experience struggles with mental illness or are required to deal with the intense pain and suffering of morally righteous but mentally ill family members. Their burdens—and they are many—can be lifted only by love, understanding, and acceptance.

Myth #2. Someone is to blame for mental illness.

It is a common human tendency to blame others or oneself for whatever goes wrong in life. Many victims of mental illness wear themselves out emotionally by futile attempts to remember something they, their parents, or someone else might have done that resulted in their suffering. Some blame their problem on demonic possession. While there is no doubt that such has occurred, let us take care not to give the devil credit for everything that goes awry in the world! Generally speaking, the mentally ill do not need exorcism; they require treatment from skilled health-care providers and love, care, and support from everyone else.

Most often, victims blame themselves. Many seem unable to rid themselves of terrible though undefined feelings that somehow, some way, they are the cause of their own pain—even when they are not. Parents, spouses, or other family members also often harrow up their minds trying futilely to determine where they went wrong. They pray over and over again for forgiveness when there is no evidence that they have anything of note to be forgiven of. Of course, in the vast majority of instances none of this works, for the simple reason that the victim’s thoughts and behavior result from disease processes which are not caused by the actions of others, including God.

Ascribing blame for mental illness causes unnecessary suffering for all concerned and takes time and energy which would better be used to increase understanding of what actually is happening—to get a complete assessment and proper diagnosis of the illness involved, to understand the causes, to get proper medication and learn behavioral and cognitive techniques that are part of the healing process. As victims, loved ones, and all the rest of us increase our understanding, then patience, forgiveness, and empathy will replace denial, anger, and rejection.

Many factors play into how and when a person may develop a mental illness, such as genetic predisposition, brain chemistry, chronic stress (such as physical abuse), infection and environmental contributors (including major life changes such as divorce).

Myth #3. All that people with mental illness need is a priesthood blessing.

I am a great advocate of priesthood blessings. I know, from much personal experience, that they do inestimable good. I know too that final and complete healing of mental illness or any other disease comes through faith in Jesus Christ. In any and all circumstances, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, our lives will improve and become richer and more peaceful as we turn to Him.

Dallin H. Oaks said in his talk in April of 2010:
The use of medical science is not at odds with our prayers of faith and our reliance on priesthood blessings. When a person requested a priesthood blessing, Brigham Young would ask, “Have you used any remedies?” To those who said no because “we wish the Elders to lay hands upon us, and we have faith that we shall be healed,” President Young replied: “That is very inconsistent according to my faith. If we are sick, and ask the Lord to heal us, and to do all for us that is necessary to be done, according to my understanding of the Gospel of salvation, I might as well ask the Lord to cause my wheat and corn to grow, without my plowing the ground and casting in the seed. It appears consistent to me to apply every remedy that comes within the range of my knowledge, and [then] to ask my Father in Heaven … to sanctify that application to the healing of my body (Dallin H. Oaks, Healing the Sick).
We must understand, however, without in any way denigrating the unique role of priesthood blessings, that ecclesiastical leaders are spiritual leaders and not mental health professionals. Most of them lack the professional skills and training to deal effectively with deep-seated mental illnesses and are well advised to seek competent professional assistance for those in their charge who are in need of it.

Remember that God has given us wondrous knowledge and technology that can help us overcome grievous problems such as mental illness. Just as we would not hesitate to consult a physician about medical problems such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes, so too we should not hesitate to obtain medical and other appropriate professional assistance in dealing with mental illness. When such assistance is sought, be careful to ensure, insofar as possible, that the health professional concerned follows practices and procedures which are compatible with gospel principles.

Myth #4. Mentally ill persons just lack willpower.

There are some who mistakenly believe that the mentally ill just need to “snap out of it, show a little backbone, and get on with life.” Those who believe that way display a grievous lack of knowledge and compassion.

The fact is that seriously mentally ill persons simply cannot, through an exercise of will, get out of the predicament they are in. They need help, encouragement, understanding, and love. Anyone who has ever witnessed the well-nigh unbearable pain of a severe panic attack knows full well that nobody would suffer that way if all that was needed was to show a little willpower.

No one who has witnessed the almost indescribable sadness of a severely depressed person who perhaps can’t even get out of bed, who cries all day or retreats into hopeless apathy, or who tries to kill himself would ever think for a moment that mental illness is just a problem of willpower. We don’t say to persons with heart disease or cancer, “Just grow up and get over it.” Neither should we treat the mentally ill in such an uncompassionate and unhelpful way.

Myth #5. All mentally ill persons are dangerous and should be locked up.

Sensational and incomplete media reports have conjured up stereotypical portrayals of the mentally ill as crazed and violent lunatics, dangerous to others as well as themselves. The truth is that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and the great majority of crimes of violence are not committed by persons who are mentally ill.

Furthermore, over the past 40 years, as effective medications for mental illness have become available and effective support programs have been developed, it has been shown that most mentally ill people—like those with physical illnesses—can live productive lives in their communities. They do not need to be locked up. Like everyone else, most mentally ill persons receiving proper treatment have the potential to work at any level in any profession, depending solely on their abilities, talents, experience, and motivation.

Myth #6. Mental illness doesn’t strike children and young people.

As noted by the National Institute of Mental Health, the truth is that an estimated 10 percent of children in the United States suffer from a mental health disorder that disrupts their functioning at home, in school, or in the community.

The majority of children who kill themselves are profoundly depressed, and most parents did not recognize that depression until it was too late. I reiterate: no one is immune to mental illness.

Myth #7. Whatever the cause, mental illness is untreatable.

As mentioned, during the past 40 years numerous medications have been developed by the multinational pharmaceutical industry. These products have proven of inestimable worth to millions. They are not perfect, nor do they work effectively in every instance—far from it, unfortunately. But we are getting closer to the day when physicians will have available effective drugs which are specific in correcting the biochemical lesions concerned, without the side effects which too often limit the effectiveness of medications today. I have no doubt that such developments, which we are already beginning to see, will result in striking advances in the treatment of mental illness over the next decade.

We live in a time when victims of many mental disorders can find helpful treatments.

Unfortunately, many individuals and families struggle alone with illnesses that can be treated. “It isn’t a sign of weakness to get the help you need,” says Dorthea C. Murdock of LDS Social Services. “It is a sign of strength to say, ‘I have a problem and I need help.’ Hope and help are available.

The key to that hope is understanding. For the victim of mental illness, hope lies in being properly diagnosed and treated—the sooner the better. And for family members of the mentally ill, help comes best from those who understand the illness.

Taking a prescription is in no way against any church teachings, and should in fact be discussed as a treatment option with a healthcare professional.  If anyone even thinks to themselves that they would never take a drug or allow anyone in their family to on some antiquated principle in their mind, then they need to re-evaluate their reasons to see if pride could be a factor in that decision. It is better to be humbled and get real help than allow someone you love to suffer for foolish reasons!!!

How Can We Help?

(Mental Illness: In Search of Understanding and Hope, Jan Underwood Pinborough, Ensign, Sept 1990)

1. Express love and interest to both the suffering individual and their family.

Remember that they are people with ordinary human feelings. Very few mentally ill people are violent; properly treated, most are not. In fact, they are usually withdrawn and inclined to harm themselves rather than others. The father of a young man with schizophrenia expresses gratitude that the elders quorum presidency in his ward recently stopped by and spent an hour talking to his son. The son was overjoyed when the elders quorum president, a busy father, invited him over for dinner. These caring expressions meant all the more because the young man has so few other relationships.

Be willing to listen to family members of the mentally ill express their feelings. “It’s great to take a meal over,” says Dr. Richard Ferre, “but that avoids the problem of having to deal with someone else’s pain.”

We’re not professionals?  What should we do/say when someone wants to talk or confide in us?
  • First, just understand…and not judge! Love, love love!
  • Don’t say things like, “just get over it…” or “just don’t think about it” or “it will just go away if you ignore it.”  Instead, listen and validate someone else’s feelings…don’t ever minimize or use platitudes. 
  • Encourage them to talk with the Bishop, who can refer them to a professional (or to their doctor.)
  • Go the distance…this won’t be easy! Stick with them!
Friends and acquaintances may feel frustrated when they try to cheer and reassure a loved one suffering from severe depression. Often the person is too fatigued and irritable to respond positively to such attention, and isolation and guilt increase on both sides. But a loving friend or priesthood leader who is willing to simply listen can be a lifeline.

“I will always be grateful for a sister in my ward who was willing to listen to me during my depression,” says one woman. “She had also been through a depression, and she could reassure me from her own experience that the terrible blankness and hopelessness I felt inside would pass. Often the only way I could feel God’s love for me was through her compassionate, understanding friendship.”

We can listen, and when prompted by the Spirit, possibly help others see how they might be distorting gospel principles, and helping to give them hope.  There are many ways that we can help one another through our perspective of clearly seeing the gospel—that can help some of the symptoms and aggressors, but ultimately, we need to be aware that we are not professionals, and when we need to…we must encourage others to get the help they need.

2. Withhold judgment and increase acceptance.

If a family doesn’t show up for a church activity, be understanding. If a child behaves inappropriately in church, welcome that child anyway.

We each go through things that are hard during our lives.  At any given time, most of us have things that we worry about and that overcome our lives and often , and we should treat everyone as though they are going through heartache, so we will treat them with the Love of the Savior.

It’s important to realize that each person has his own time, his own moment, his own struggle.

No one is immune to serious problems, including mental illness.

3. Look for any needed help that you can do (that does not require a professional).

By really listening, you can learn what the true needs of a family are. Maybe a family needs someone to watch the other children while they take an ill child to the hospital in the middle of the night. In one ward, Relief Society sisters took turns taking a mother who could not drive and her mentally ill child to weekly doctor appointments.

If you suspect that a close friend or family member may be suffering from some form of mental illness, consider how you could encourage that person to get prompt professional and spiritual help. The bishop can refer members of his ward to LDS Social Services practitioners or to community resources for evaluation. Family physicians can also make referrals. Most communities have competent mental health professionals—including psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and social workers—who can give help within the framework of Latter-day Saint values.

4. If you are suffering, please seek help and talk to someone.

There is no need to suffer silently, and reaching out to others may bless them as well.

With most people, "things are more complicated than they seem on the first visit," Goodstein tells WebMD. "Almost always, there's something more going on, and a doctor just can't know all that in one visit. It's erroneous if they think they can."

It's important to get treated for any mood disorder, because it can affect your own quality of life -- as well as the people around you, Goodstein adds. When you're depressed—for any reason—"You don't care about yourself. You don't care about those around you. And often, you don't have the motivation to get help because you feel hopeless," he says. "You might think there's no way to solve your problems. But that's not true. We can treat your depression, so you'll be better able to find solutions to your problems."

The Atonement brings healing

The Lord can heal us from any affliction.

John, Chapter 9:2-3, “Who did sin, this man or his parents?”  Jesus said “hath this man sinned or his parents.”

Sometimes we have a tendency during difficult times, to say, “well who sinned, who messed up? Parents, me, who?"

Neither. We have weaknesses so that the works of God can be made manifest in our lives, and so we will turn to him, and look to him for peace.

When we learn to take the Sacrament and view our lives through His Eyes, that we can find healing and comfort and rest from our troubles.  I hope each of us can remember that in our lives, and also share that with those we are blessed to serve.

The ultimate source of healing is spiritual.

Breaking the word atonement into three parts—at-one-ment—suggests the truth that only divine love can finally make us whole—emotionally and spiritually.

As Mormon explains, the power to become like the Savior—whole, fully developed—comes from being filled with charity, or “the pure love of Christ”: “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him.” (Moro. 7:47–48.)

Alma describes the transforming effect of experiencing the Lord’s atoning love. Struck down for trying to destroy the Church, Alma was racked in his soul “with eternal torment.” Then, as he remembered his father’s prophecies of the Savior’s atoning love, he pleaded for mercy and was filled with an exquisite peace and joy. (See Alma 36:6–21.)

Healing comes when we, too, not only know—but also feel—that the Savior loves us, even in our weakness.

Dr. Dean Byrd, field manager for LDS Social Services, suggests that we can feel this love by reading the scriptures in a personalized way. For example, we could read John 3:16–17, “For God so loved [me], that he gave his only begotten Son, that [believing in him, I] should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn [me]; but that [I] through him might be saved.”

The atoning love of the Savior includes his willingness to bear not only the burden of our sins—which would separate us forever from our Father—but also our day-to-day burdens of fear and anxiety—which would deprive us of peace and joy.

As Sister Patricia Holland explains, giving our burdens to the Lord sometimes requires us “to make that leap of faith toward His embrace when we are least certain of His presence. … When we hand our fears and frustrations to Him in absolute confidence that He will help us resolve them, when in this way we free our heart and mind and soul of all anxiety, we find in a rather miraculous way that He can instill within us a whole new perspective—He can fill us with ‘that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.’ (Hel. 5:44.)”

D&C 101:16 Be still, and know that I am God.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,” He said. “… Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30). He and only He has the healing balm of Gilead needed by all of God’s children.

There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel.

It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the light that is endless, that can never be darkened. It is the very Son of God Himself.

To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say: Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His ‘more excellent ministry’ with a future of better promises. He is your ‘high priest of good things to come.’  (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, An High Priest of Good Things to Come, Ensign, Nov. 1999)


Additional references used in this talk:

Keeping Mentally Well
Jan Underwood Pinborough
Ensign, Sept. 1990

Rising Above the Blues
Shanna Ghaznavi
New Era, April 2002


Conditions Recognized as Mental Illness

The more common types include:
  • Anxiety disorders: People with anxiety disorders respond to certain objects or situations with fear and dread, as well as with physical signs of anxiety or nervousness, such as a rapid heartbeat and sweating. An anxiety disorder is diagnosed if the person's response is not appropriate for the situation, if the person cannot control the response, or if the anxiety interferes with normal functioning. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.
  • Mood disorders: These disorders, also called affective disorders, involve persistent feelings of sadness or periods of feeling overly happy, or fluctuations from extreme happiness to extreme sadness. The most common mood disorders are depression, mania, and bipolar disorder.
  • Psychotic disorders: Psychotic disorders involve distorted awareness and thinking. Two of the most common symptoms of psychotic disorders are hallucinations -- the experience of images or sounds that are not real, such as hearing voices -- and delusions -- false beliefs that the ill person accepts as true, despite evidence to the contrary. Schizophrenia is an example of a psychotic disorder.
  • Eating disorders: Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes, and behaviors involving weight and food. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder are the most common eating disorders.
  • Impulse control and addiction disorders: People with impulse control disorders are unable to resist urges, or impulses, to perform acts that could be harmful to themselves or others. Pyromania (starting fires), kleptomania (stealing), and compulsive gambling are examples of impulse control disorders. Alcohol and drugs are common objects of addictions. Often, people with these disorders become so involved with the objects of their addiction that they begin to ignore responsibilities and relationships.
  • Personality disorders: People with personality disorders have extreme and inflexible personality traits that are distressing to the person and/or cause problems in work, school, or social relationships. In addition, the person's patterns of thinking and behavior significantly differ from the expectations of society and are so rigid that they interfere with the person's normal functioning. Examples include antisocial personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder.
Other, less common types of mental illnesses include:
  • Adjustment disorder: Adjustment disorder occurs when a person develops emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to a stressful event or situation. The stressors may include natural disasters, such as an earthquake or tornado; events or crises, such as a car accident or the diagnosis of a major illness; or interpersonal problems, such as a divorce, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or a problem with substance abuse. Adjustment disorder usually begins within three months of the event or situation and ends within six months after the stressor stops or is eliminated.
  • Dissociative disorders: People with these disorders suffer severe disturbances or changes in memory, consciousness, identity, and general awareness of themselves and their surroundings. These disorders usually are associated with overwhelming stress, which may be the result of traumatic events, accidents, or disasters that may be experienced or witnessed by the individual. Dissociative identity disorder, formerly called multiple personality disorder, or "split personality", and depersonalization disorder are examples of dissociative disorders.
  • Factitious disorders: Factitious disorders are conditions in which physical and/or emotional symptoms are created in order to place the individual in the role of a patient or a person in need of help.
  • Sexual and gender disorders: These include disorders that affect sexual desire, performance, and behavior. Sexual dysfunction, gender identity disorder, and the paraphilias are examples of sexual and gender disorders.
  • Somatoform disorders: A person with a somatoform disorder, formerly known as psychosomatic disorder, experiences physical symptoms of an illness even though a doctor can find no medical cause for the symptoms.
  • Tic disorders: People with tic disorders make sounds or display body movements that are repeated, quick, sudden, and/or uncontrollable. (Sounds that are made involuntarily are called vocal tics.) Tourette's syndrome is an example of a tic disorder.
Warning Signs of Mental Illness

Mental illness, like other serious disorders, is marked by several early warning signals. Although each of us may experience one or more of these symptoms at one time or another, we should become concerned and get help if they persist or recur frequently.
  • Prolonged or severe depression
  • Undue, continuing anxiety and worry
  • Tension-caused physical problems
  • Withdrawal from society; isolation
  • Confused or disordered thinking
  • Hallucinations or delusions (may be of a religious nature)
  • Unjustified fears
  • Obsessions or compulsions
  • Inappropriate emotions
  • Substantial, rapid weight gain or loss
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Excessive self-centeredness
  • Loss of touch with reality
  • Inability to maintain good interpersonal relationships
  • Inability to cope with or overcome problems in school, at work, or at home
  • Inability to manage everyday routines and responsibilities in school, at work, or at home
  • Inability to take care of one’s personal needs
  • Extremely immature behavior
  • Negative self-image and outlook
(Adapted from Now at Last, pamphlet, The American Mental Health Fund, n.d., pp. 2–3.
Anxiety Disorder)

Symptoms that may indicate an anxiety disorder
  • Are you constantly tense, worried, or on edge?
  • Does your anxiety interfere with your work, school, or family responsibilities?
  • Are you plagued by fears that you know are irrational, but can’t shake?
  • Do you believe that something bad will happen if certain things aren’t done a certain way?
  • Do you avoid everyday situations or activities because they cause you anxiety?
  • Do you experience sudden, unexpected attacks of heart-pounding panic?
  • Do you feel like danger and catastrophe are around every corner?
  • Do you have emotional symptoms of anxiety, such as feelings of apprehension and dread, anticipating the worst, or watching for danger?
Do you have physical symptoms, such as:
  • Pounding heart
  • Sweating
  • Stomach upset or dizziness
  • Frequent urination or diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Restlessness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Tremors and twitches
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Regularly feeling tense and jumpy
(Adapted from

If you identify with several of these signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, and could benefit from speaking with a mental health professional.

Clinical depression

Not everyone will experience the same depressive symptoms, but one or a combination of the following symptoms should be a warning. Prolonged (longer than two weeks) and severe symptoms are a sign that you need to ask for help. Some of the most common symptoms of depression are:
  • A persistent sad, anxious, or empty feeling
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Decreased energy or increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up
  • Appetite change and/or weight loss or gain
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, stomachaches, or other chronic pain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
(National Institute of Mental Health)

Helping others with depression

If you have a friend who is depressed, offer your support, patience, and encouragement. Remember, people with depression can’t just snap out of a low mood.

And never ignore talk of suicide or any other signals your friend might be giving you. Tell a trusted church leader or doctor about your friend’s threats immediately. Not all suicidal teens will behave in the same way, but here are some warning signs that your friend needs help, and fast:
  • They want to be alone all the time.
  • They are moody and irritable.
  • Their personality has changed abruptly.
  • They are using drugs or alcohol.
  • They are sleeping too much or not enough.
  • They are giving their possessions away.
  • They have talked about suicide or wanting to die.
Ways to help yourself when suffering
  • Get the appropriate level of professional help from:  a doctor, your Bishop, LDS Family Services, or even local crisis lines.
  • Pray whenever you need help and comfort.
  • Read the scriptures and other uplifting books.
  • Listen to uplifting music.
  • Ask for a priesthood blessing.
  • Serve others. You have a lot to offer.
  • Spend time with your family and friends. Let them help you.
  • Eat healthily & Exercise Regularly.
  • Be patient. You’ll improve gradually once you seek treatment.
  • Talk to a friend.
  • Try to break negative thought patterns.
  • Prioritize what you need to do, and set realistic goals on a schedule you can handle.
  • Start a worthwhile hobby to get your mind off things.
  • Keep a journal.
(Taken from New Era article, Rising Above the Blues by Shanna Ghaznavi, April 2002)

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