Oh, dear brothers and sisters, I join the many who mourn with you – and want to do anything we can to support you. The pain of serious anxiety and depression can be terrifying and excruciating – as I’ve witnessed in interviewing and helping many people over the years.
Please hold on. Our Mighty God will one day “deliver his covenant people” – and that includes you!
At a conference for religious psychologists once, I heard a speaker bear earnest witness that people would find the healing they seek from painful mental or emotional challenges “one day in the resurrection.” In the meanwhile, he suggested, many would likely need to face these trials the rest of their lives.
This was intended to be a message of hope – but I felt unsettled. Something didn’t feel right.
Is that the best hope we can give people? Is accepting lifelong illness really what the Savior of the World would ask of us all?
Maybe yes – for some. For reasons not always fully understood, painful illness can last for many years. But rather than simply acknowledging this possibility, a message of expected chronicity and life-long struggle is now being shared with most people facing depression and anxiety – young and old.
But why? Over the last decade, I’ve witnessed many stories of people finding deeper, and more lasting healing from not only depression and anxiety – but from eating disorders, ADHD, serious addiction, and even schizophrenia.
Yet, perhaps much like the greater public attention given to stories of disaffiliation from faith (compared with stories of return), stories of deep healing from significant emotional challenges receive relatively little attention compared with the aching accounts of those still suffering.
No doubt, we should be focused on supporting those carrying such heavy burdens. Some of these burdens though, I have observed, can be made significantly heavier by messages such as “this is just something you will need to face the rest of your life.”
One young woman told me that her suicidal thoughts started the same day she was told by a well-intentioned professional that her depression would be life-long.
If the best science confirmed this kind of a message, of course, then we should be up front with people about this hard news.
But it doesn’t! The research is so very much more hopeful.
That’s what motivates a new effort I’m helping lead to raise awareness about the many remarkably hopeful stories of healing that exist – and the many support options available to help them get there.
Too often, our conversations about mental health both in Utah and nationally remain shaped by assumptions of life-long, chronic-disability – even though the best research around brain changeability, epigenetics (the “fluid genome”) and the impact of mindfulness, nutrition and physical activity says otherwise.
What might it mean for more people to be aware of this all?
What’s been remarkable to me is how many creative support resources are out there that can be accessed in people’s own homes. Their origins hail from all over the globe – growing up like wildflowers – with many inspiring ideas emerging overseas. Gathering those for anyone looking for additional help has been our focus.
We are among those who believe it’s time for a paradigm shift in mental health care. And if this could bring more consolation and hope to our precious brothers and sisters of faith, we dearly want them to find it.
Many years ago, our pioneer forebears suffered and died in Nauvoo partly due to a lack of familiarity about better ways of working with mosquito-infested swampland and associated plagues. New understandings led inevitably to a drastic reduction in the human toll these plagues took.
Rather than approaching depression or anxiety as a crisis, we believe these painful emotions can be an opportunity to learn, grow and make important adjustments in our lives – like an alarm system going off in the body. Multiple studies have found dramatic decreases in depression for those who adopt this “therapeutic lifestyle change” approach in their healing journey – which corresponds with the gospel so well. And there are simple ways now to access that approach on your own.
All of which makes it surprising that most people aren’t aware of these things. Neither are many doctors and counselors. And we believe it’s time for that to change.
Perhaps it’s also time to embrace, as Elder Neal Maxwell once hinted at, a psychology worthy of the restoration – one that invites people towards redemption and deep, lasting healing – rather than a lifetime of chronic, agonizing endurance.
No one but our Lord has all the answers. And yet, with so many beautiful, hopeful possibilities emerging – we can’t help but see His hand reaching out to us. Perhaps as we council more together about all of this, as President Ballard has taught so often, even more will come?
That’s our hope. Join us, at the Council for Sustainable Healing, and explore what more may be possible for your own healing – and for all of us.
Praying for you always.