Church members don’t bat an eye when they
tell people they’re suffering from an ear infection. These days, nobody
is embarrassed to admit he has diabetes. Even talking about cancer
doesn’t raise the red flags it used to do.
But mention mental illness, and
Latter-day Saints get nervous. We get so nervous, as a matter of fact,
that many of us don’t talk about mental illness at all. If we’re
depressed, we don’t tell our friends. Even more serious, we more often
than not don’t tell our doctors. Because of that, mental health issues
that could easily be treated often go without treatment.
Latter-day Saints can’t be blamed for
wanting to hide emotional problems from the family doctor.
traditional mental health professionals
have a bias against people who have religious convictions.
In fact, some actually
believe that if you think God
communicates with you, that alone is evidence
that you’re crazy.
Resource for Latter-day Saints
Over the years, members of the LDS Church
have asked questions such as: Where can I get help for my son’s
pornography problem? How can I deal with my friend’s homosexual feelings?
Are there any good books on blended families or single parenting? Are
there any LDS Alcohol Recovery Support Groups near me? My neighbor
committed suicide — what can I do to help the family?
Now, there is a single place to find
answers to all these questions.
The Utah-based Mental Health Resource
Foundation has taken upon itself the task of finding appropriate mental
health professionals to treat Latter-day Saints who find themselves or
their family members suffering from mental illness or from addictions or
other self-destructive patterns of behavior.
In fact, the members
of the board — who include James O. Mason, Joe J. Christensen,
Ardeth Kapp, and
other prominent Latter-day Saints —agree
with the American Psychiatric Association in defining mental illness as “a
brain disorder — an illness that affects or is manifested in a person's
brain,” and that may affect “the way a person thinks, behaves, and
interacts with other people. Mental illnesses are real illnesses — as
real as heart disease and cancer."
agrees with the American Psychiatric
Association in the definition of mental illness there is a big divergence
after that point. The Mental Health Resource Foundation recognizes that
people who have religious faith want to be treated for their mental
disorders without being challenged or judged for their religious beliefs.
In fact, they
want to use their religious beliefs as a resource in dealing with such
In order to bring
and responsible mental health
and resources together, the Mental
Health Resource Foundation brings thousands of articles, websites,
books, personal stories, and other information into one “Yellow Page”
online directory to help people. This free, online library located at
www.MentalHealthLibrary.info is a valuable resource to anyone
searching for information about mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder,
depression, or schizophrenia. Resources are also available on topics such
as addiction, same-gender attraction, physical and sexual abuse,
codependency, and family relationships.
Foundation volunteers have spent thousand
of hours over the years reviewing LDS Church publications, websites and
services. Resources from the Ensign, LDS Family Services, The
Distribution Center, Church Lesson Manuals and other LDS
sources have been carefully indexed by topic into the Foundation Library.
A patron can enter the LDS section of the Library and find everything
from a listing of LDS Family Services-sponsored Pornography and
Addiction Recovery Groups to the Association of Mormon Counselors &
Psychotherapists listing of available LDS Counselors in the
In addition, articles from BYU
Conferences and Workshops like Families Under
Fire, Education Week, and Cyber Secrets: The Problem of
Pornography, are also available
in the library. The collection is so extensive that Joe J. Christensen,
member of the Foundation’s Executive Board and Emeritus Member of the
First Quorum of the Seventy, described the Library as, “one of the world’s
finest libraries of mental illness, addiction, and emotional resources for
Latter-day Saints and other religious denominations.”
The Foundation Library also provides
quality national and international resources, including hundreds of mental
health websites in their native languages of German, Finnish, Swedish and
others. During recent months, people from over 70 different countries have
visited the Foundation Library. Recently the Foundation launched a similar
Internet based library in Spanish at
again the Foundation volunteers have catalogued the myriads of resources
for patrons’ easy access. The Mental Health Resource Foundation is a
private non-profit foundation which respects and applies principles and
teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
An important aspect of the library is
that it is not just designed to help Latter-day Saints. Religious people
who are not Latter-day Saints, but who need information about mental
health professionals who will respect their beliefs, can also use the free
resources of the foundation website.
Putting all these
resources together in a centralized location has been a boon and a
blessing for Latter-day Saints, as people who have used the service can
After finding much
needed information on single parenting, a Relief Society president from
Florida wrote, “I just found your marvelous site. I am grateful for the
A recovering alcoholic
from Connecticut after discovering several LDS Family Services Addiction
Recovery Programs near his home said, “I find your website
fascinating. The materials on church support groups are a treasure
A bishop in Oregon regularly using the
Library to help his ward members wrote, “I have found many things on your
site which have been helpful to me in my efforts. I hope you are here
forever, or at least until I am released!”
“Dr. Rick” Hawks, the director of the
Foundation, explained, “When Joseph Smith was asked how he governed his
people so well, he replied, ‘I teach them
correct principles and they govern themselves.’ (Journal of Discourses
10:57.)” He continued, “The Foundation believes by giving Saints access
to resources, they can help themselves! Even those with the most serious
mental illness or emotional problem can do something to improve their
A Unique Situation
Dr. Rick added, “Research
suggests the lifestyle of LDS people appears to have a significant
positive impact on overall health. Nevertheless, in the shadows of each
chapel there are members who continue to experience mental illness,
addictions, and emotional problems. Church members — including leaders —
are in no way exempt from these conditions.
“For example,” he
continued, “during recent years, LDS Family Services has sponsored
addiction recovery support meetings to assist individuals who desire
freedom from alcohol, drug and pornography addiction. These support groups
are now available in dozens of LDS chapels — from Salt Lake City, Utah, to
And in fact, with some
conditions like depression, members of the Church experience the problem
more frequently than their non-LDS counterparts. Dr. Stephen Bahr, BYU
Professor, concluded in a recent publication that, “Depression was one
area where LDS people did not do as well as non-LDS people. In particular,
LDS women reported more depression than non-LDS women.” (A Statistical
Profile of Mormons: Health, Wealth, and Social Life 2004).
As members of the
Lord’s Church, we are not promised immunity from problems. There is a
great need for members to learn about available resources, both religious
and private. Thanks to the
foundation and its library, church members and other people of religious
faith can finally receive the help they need without fear of ridicule for
their spiritual beliefs. Because of the efforts of foundation volunteers,
help is on the way for many struggling Latter-day Saints.