Mental and Emotional Health

In the LDS Church, we have high expectations and high ideals. Leaders do not shy away from teaching a very specific ideal family constellation, sexual purity before marriage, and patterning our life after the Savior’s life in every possible way. There is nothing wrong with teaching ideals and one could argue that that is the primary job of religious institutions. However, in real life, holding up ideals often leaves members never feeling  “good enough” because they have not achieved the ideal righteous Mormon life. Chronic feelings of  “never good enough” because your life doesn’t look like an Ensign magazine cover, your child has left the Church, your spouse isn’t committed to church callings, you’re struggling with the word of wisdom, you’re having difficulty forgiving someone, you’re not a good provider, or you’re not an attentive mother or father, can erode our whole sense of self.

What is shame?

Shame is a universal emotion defined by researcher Brené Brown, PhD as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.” Shame inspires us to hide ourselves from others, to judge ourselves and to go deeper into secretive behaviors.

Shame triggers

Religious institutions are not the only place we get messages about ideals. We are bombarded with messages about how we “should” be–what ideal women and men look like and act like, what the ideal house and household looks like, how your children should behave and more. Not living up to our ideal identity or how we want to view ourselves and be viewed by others has been identified as the primary trigger for shame.

One of my ideal identities is the desire to be viewed as a “good mother.” If I am not behaving as a “good mother” – if I’m being preoccupied with work, forgetting their doctor appointment, or losing my patience– my ideal identity is challenged and I am susceptible to feelings of shame. Shame can be triggered not only by how we view ourselves, but also by how we think others view us.

What’s wrong with shame?

You may be thinking, “What’s the problem with feeling shame when you don’t measure up to your ideal? Doesn’t that make you want to change?” No, shame does not inspire self-improvement. It most often initiates and fuels self-destructive behavior. Chronic feelings of shame are present in toxic perfectionism, eating disorders, problematic sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and sexual abuse. Over time, shame can become integrated into our self-image, into our core experience of who we are (not what we have done).

Where shame gets particularly tricky for Mormons is that while we can discount the world’s messages about our ideal selves as shallow, uninspired and sometimes downright evil, faithful members can’t easily discount the ideals put forward by inspired Church leaders. Nor should we. How do we accept the ideals set forth by our Church leaders without spiraling into self-destructive shame because we don’t measure up?

1. Draw clear distinctions between ideal and real

I am not suggesting that we throw away the ideals presented by our doctrine and teachings. What I am suggesting is that we overtly discuss that the image of an ideal family, ideal mother, ideal priesthood holder, ideal child or teen as something to strive for, not to actually achieve anytime soon. I have seen the damaging consequences of believing that the religious ideal is actually attainable in this life contribute to destructive perfectionism, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, and shame. Dr. Brené Brown suggests that “healthy striving” toward a goal is very different than toxic perfectionism.

As an adolescent, I recognized my blessed and privileged life and yet, for a period of time, I still wasn’t happy. I concluded that something must be inherently wrong with me. I started to experience deep feelings of shame–that I was somehow flawed because I went through periods where I wasn’t able to feel joy and gratitude. I have the Gospel. I should be happy. I slid into several years of toxic perfectionism, denying my emotions, and hiding my authentic self.

Read full story by Dr. Julie De Azevedo Hanks on Meridian Magazine.

This is an epic story about a rebellious missionary who was swallowed by a figurative “whale”, turned around and successfully finished his mission.

Enjoy the story!

*Watch videos about crazy/dangerous missionary stories.

*Watch videos about spiritual missionary stories.

*Watch videos for early returned missionaries.

image from mentalhealth.lds.org

As we reported in our post this week, the Church has added new resources to the Mental Health page on LDS.org, including candid video interviews with members experiencing mental illness and answers to “hard questions.”

The World Health Organization claims that one in four people in the world will be affected by mental illness at some point in their life. According to MentalHealth.lds.org, help is available “whether you’re just discovering the importance of caring for your own mental health, learning to cope with a mental illness, or searching for solutions to help a loved one.”

The site currently features six videos from members sharing personal experiences with depression, sadness, eating disorders, sexual abuse, schizophrenia, and suicide. An additional section provides suggestions for questions such as “How can I feel happy when I can’t feel anything” and “How can I help people understand what I’m going through?”

If you or someone you know could use this resource, please share this with them or visit the webpage mentalhealth.lds.org. Also, read more about it on the Church News website.

“More than 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.” These are the first words seen on the newest video produced by the Mormon Channel about mental illness. The video features new footage of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland talking about why he chose to speak about mental illness in his talk “Like a Broken Vessel” given in the October 2013 General Conference.

Elder Holland sympathizes with those who struggle with mental illness saying that it is very real. He says that this is an issue that more and more people are dealing with and that it isn’t getting any easier to handle. He also says that those who struggle are not alone and that Jesus Christ is there and does understand.

Along with the inspiring counsel from Elder Holland, the video features many members who struggle with mental illness. They share their stories and what has helped them. The videos offer a preview into the stories that these people share in more depth on the newest Church resource for those who have mental health issues called mentalhealth.lds.org.  The site shares the stories of members with mental illness and how they are striving to live with this trial. The site says:

“Whether you are just discovering the signs of mental illness in your life or you have been struggling, fully aware, for weeks, months, or even years—we know your path has been one of confusion, pain, and even grief. Please know, you are not alone.

“As the Savior of the world suffered for each one of us, He knows the pain you are going through more perfectly than you could ever imagine. He is here for you. He knows just how real the pain is that you are experiencing—He took upon Himself the ‘pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind’ for ‘every living creature, both men, women, and children’ (Alma 7:11–12; 2 Nephi 9:21; see also Hebrews 4:15–16).”

Watch the intro video below and please share the new website with those you know who may need to hear this message of comfort.

The new site also offers answers to many related questions such as:

  • I can’t feel the Spirit. Is it my fault that I’m struggling? Do I just need more faith?
  • How can I feel happy when I can’t feel anything?
  • I feel so alone. How can I help people understand what I am going through?
  • How can I deal with thoughts of suicide? What’s wrong with me?
  • I love someone with mental illness. How can I help them?

They also encourage that you ask even more questions by emailing [email protected] and they say: “We applaud you for seeking answers and for taking a step toward healing. We pray that with the Savior’s help you might find hope and help in your journey.” For more info visit the new web page: mentalhealth.lds.org.

Early Returned Missionary Mental health natural solution
Image used with permission from Ashley

Ashley Sargeant had been serving a mission in the Brasilia Brazil Mission for nine months when she was given an honorable release. While serving, she battled with mental health struggles and halfway through her mission, she had a complete mental collapse. Ashley was heartbroken, but knew it was right to return home. On her last day in the mission, her first companion found her, and knowing that she was going home early, took her by the shoulders, looked her in the eye and told her:

“Whatever you do, just don’t stop Sister Sargeant. DON’T STOP!”

On February 19th 2015, she launched a social media campaign titled “Don’t Stop Sargeant” designed to share hope and resources with early returning missionaries and those who are battling mental illness to overcome the stigma that is so prevalent in our culture. She responds to messages from her followers on her website (link above), Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube. Ashley has been battling mental illness for the past fourteen years, but coming home from her mission really hit home and her quest to find answers really began at the end of her mission.

Early Returned Missionary Mental health natural solution

It has been around three years since Ashley returned home from Brazil. Six months ago, she was in an even darker place than she had ever been in her life. In a recent presentation she gave, she said “my brain could not handle it anymore.” At this same time, a friend approached her on social media saying that she would be in town and that she could come visit her. She was excited to see her friend but also in deep need of help at this dark time. It was at this time that her friend Josie Thompson told her about EMPowerplus Q96. When Josie told her about this broad spectrum micronutrient, she said that she had already heard about this from nearly a dozen of her other friends, but she assumed that it was just too good to be true.

Josie said to Ashley: “Before you admit yourself to the hospital, at least try this.” So Lisa Thompson, Josie’s mom, sent Ashley a month supply for free the next day. Ashley was still hesitant that it would work, but within the first couple of weeks, she noticed changes in her mood and she started functioning again. “Within a month of taking it, I started getting out of bed. That is a big deal! The second month it became even easier. I was sleeping better and I didn’t have the desire to kill myself anymore.”

In a recent video, Ashley stated: “I didn’t have this heaviness, this darkness in my brain in the morning that made it almost impossible to get out of bed. I thought a couple months into taking it, ‘This has got to be a placebo effect. This is going to wear off any day now. I’m going to wake up one morning and I’m going to go right back to how things were before.”

Six months later, that hasn’t happened. It has only gotten better.
She says: “It’s not that I don’t have ups and downs and good days and bad days, because we all have those. It’s that I feel like I’ve gone from riding this out-of-control, terrifying roller coaster ride of a life to a manageable carousel ride. And now I can say that I know what normal feels like for me. And these lights have turned back on in my life, in my face — I feel all sparkly inside and I just want to tell everybody about the amazingness of Q96! It has literally changed my life. I feel excited about my future, and I feel a lot of hope.”

mental illness natural solution
Photo of Ashley from a recent interview

With so many people who struggle with this, it is important to remember that this product is not approved by the FDA and is a broad-spectrum micronutrient, not a medication. As such it does not claim to treat or cure any disease. Each individual experience is unique, but we share this story because if it brought Ashley out of such a deep darkness, it might help you or someone you love to find the light and hope that Ashley now feels.

“I’m living proof that this stuff works. I don’t know the science behind it, but I know that nutrition affects your brain. I am now six months on the Q. I can say that today I am a completely functional, happy human being.”
And though Ashley may not understand the science behind this formulation, there is ongoing research being done and over twenty-seven peer reviewed journal articles have been published (to date) on this broad spectrum micronutrient formulation. Is this product right for you or for someone you know? It might just be. Ashley struggled for months of terrifying darkness before she let herself try it. Now that she knows that it works, she wished she would have started long ago.

 

Editors note: To see a list of empirical reports and clinical research on this product, click here. To read about a Harvard Psychiatrist and other researchers who have done tests on this product, click here. To watch a TED talk given by a clinical psychologist who has researched the EMPowerplus formulation, click here. For more information about EMPowerplus Q96, click here. If you are interested in trying the product for yourself, click here. This article was written with permission from Ashley Sargeant and was sponsored by MyQHealth.com.

 

Important Safety Disclaimer: If you are considering transitioning from any medication onto the EMPowerplus formulation, please be careful. Please do not go off your medications “cold-turkey.” This is dangerous and is unwise. However, please do consider trying this method very carefully and with the help of professionals, family and transition coaches. Mental illness is serious and can be life-threatening. Please be careful, but know that there is hope and for anyone who is willing to take the time and make the effort to transition to a more natural pathway. It may take longer than Ashley Sargeant to experience any result. For anyone considering it, we would recommend using the Micronutrient Support coaches who have been trained professionally to coach people in this type of transition. As you consider a lifelong pathway for your health, remember that the former president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Martin Seligman, has said in his latest book Flourish that there is not one SSRI that is made for a cure. They are all cosmetic, not curative. He said this: “Every single drug on the shelf of psychopharmacopoeia is cosmetic. There are no curative drugs, and no drug is in development that I know of that aims at cure. Biological psychiatry has given up on cure.” [Flourish, p. 46]. QSciences and EMPowerplus Q96 does not claim to cure any mental illness, but it has been proven to have clinically effective results with those who suffer from mental illnesses. As stated above, please be wise and use caution in your decisions about your mental health or that of a loved one.

Several years ago I had a profound spiritual realization. I was sitting quietly in a church meeting when it happened.  I had enjoyed such a beautiful week, – filled and upheld by the spirit, – but unexpectedly at that moment, it was as if a dark cloud overshadowed me. I began to feel a feeling of strong condemnation against me, like I was being spiritually assaulted. I started to feel guilty, but didn’t know why. (Not doing enough? Not being enough? Saying the wrong thing? etc) My spirit was shrinking because I was believing these condemning thoughts and feelings.

Just as I was sinking into the dark abyss, I became alert to what was really going on. I realized, in a flash of spiritual insight, that “Something is wrong! These things I’m feeling bad about aren’t even true! I instantly understood that I had been “acted upon” by the adversary.   This condemnation had been thrust upon me, and I had been buying into it hook, line and sinker.

This inspiration empowered me to pray, “Heavenly Father, please take this darkness and guilt from me. None of it is true!   As easily as it descended on me, it departed and I was once again enveloped in peace. I felt that the whole experience gave me a gem of knowledge that I could truly use in my life and share.

I recognized that I had been “pounded” many times like this before, (and usually with good reason), but this was the first time I figured out the source of my condemnation.

If we hear “voices” that condemn, they are NOT of God!

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”(John 3:17)   If the adversary can get us to believe that we are condemned, he has won a major battle, even if it may be justifiable. Because we are not perfect, he always has fodder with which to condemn us. The particles of truth that he uses are just what he needs to threaten our peace.

One of the greatest tools Satan uses to keep us from being “one” with the Lord is to convince us that we don’t “deserve it.” When we do something wrong, (if we have any kind of conscience at all), we are made to suffer. He tries to convince us that we are bad, or we’ll never change. With his continual thrashing, we sometimes find ourselves agreeing that we aren’t worth saving, and we perpetuate the “beating” with SELF- CONDEMNATION. We generally continue where Satan and his minions leave off, and we do a pretty thorough job.

Read the full article at Meridian Magazine.

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Image via LDS Living

Pride is often referred to as the universal sin. From the perspective of LDS theology, this seems pretty accurate; pride caused Satan to rebel against heaven, pride led to the downfall of ancient civilizations, pride is the driving factor that has caused evil individuals throughout history to come to power, and anyone who has studied the Book of Mormon has probably heard of the pride cycle. However, for this discussion, I’d like to move away from the archetypal, “big picture” idea of pride to focus on the perspective of it as an individual characteristic, that is, of personal pride.

It seems that certain patterns of pride are easy to identify. I think that one of the reasons that pride is so difficult to manage, however, is because it often appears in ways that are more subtle but just as damaging. In his well-known 1989 address, “Beware of Pride,” Ezra Taft Benson referred to this as the different facesof pride, some of which include tendencies to harbor a grudge, withhold forgiveness, or act contentiously with family members.

Identifying Humility and Pride

President Benson concludes his discourse by detailing how humility is the clear antidote to pride. This comes as no surprise; the opposite of a “me-centric” philosophy is one in which we realize there’s more to the world than ourselves, that we don’t know everything, and that we are not, in fact, better than anyone else. Pride is bad and humility is good. Sounds simple enough, right? Maybe not. Just as pride is multi-faceted and can come in disguise, humility is not always what it seems, and identifying the two can be tricky. It’s a topic that comes up frequently in therapy sessions. Here are some ways that pride falsely manifests itself while wearing the mask of humility:

1) Self-deprecation

I’ve worked with many clients who have a mistaken belief that having feelings of low self-worth is humility. When we put beat ourselves up or put ourselves down, we may think that we’re being humble, but the opposite is actually true. By excessively pointing out your own flaws and weaknesses and dismissing sincere compliments, you are essentially denying the divinity that exists within you. President Benson says the central feature of pride is enmity. Dismissing the divine gifts that you have been given could be an expression of enmity toward God.

I love what C.S Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity: “It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.” Avoiding pride means not putting ourselves above others, but it also means not putting ourselves below others.

Pride is in the comparison, the ranking. Comparison creates enmity toward others or toward yourself, depending on who ranks higher in comparison. Dieter F. Uchtdorf reiterated the words of Lewis when he said that “[w]e don’t discover humility by thinking less of ourselves; we discover humility by thinking less aboutourselves” (emphasis added). Respect yourself as a child of God, and don’t mix up self-degradation with humility.

Read the full article at LDS Living.

Image via LDS Living

Why do we experience pain?

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. . . . The Lord . . . will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” (Psalms 46:1–3; 9:9)

One of the unfailing facts of mortal life is the recurring presence of trouble, the recurring challenge of difficulty and pain. . . . Someone once reasoned that confronting problems is apparently the common denominator of the living—the great bond between the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, the believer and the skeptic. . . . One popular writer said that expecting a trouble-free life because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.

When these difficult days (and nights!) come—and they will—it will help us to remember that “it must needs be,” that in the grand councils of heaven before the world was, we agreed to such a time of challenge and refinement. We were taught then that facing, resolving, and enduring troublesome times was the price we would pay for progress. And we were committed to progress eternally. . . .

Thus, even though on some days we might wish it otherwise, it is essential that our temporal journey be laced with all kinds of choices and alternatives, opportunities and obstacles, exhilarating highs and sometimes devastating lows. . . .

Of course, the greatest reassurance in this plan is that there was from the beginning a fail-safe protection built into the arrangement, an unassailable guarantee (if we want it) against every mistake we might make, every sin we would commit, every trial we would confront, every discouragement, disease, and the death we will all ultimately face. This salvation would come in the form of a Messiah, the Messiah—the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He would come “with healing in his wings,” both temporally and spiritually. His message would be one of hope and peace. His atoning sacrifice would overcome death and hell for every man, woman, and child from Adam to the end of the world.

He would break the bands of our bondage and our troubles, and He would set us free. . . .

Yes, there will be stress and sorrow in life, and we will not always get the answers from heaven we prefer, but God will always give the answer we need—and with it He will give both strength and spiritual solace in all our times of trouble.

Remember, God is for you.

When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. (Psalm 56:9)

. . . I believe all confidence, all comfort, all strength, all safety starts here—“This I know; . . . God is for me.”

That truth has to be seared into our hearts, written in bold letters across the tissue of our brains, and never forgotten. Like the blood of the Passover with which ancient Israelites were to mark the lintel and side posts of their doors, we ought to have some such figurative reminder constantly before our eyes and always in our hearts that God is for us. . . .

He loves us. He is our Heavenly Father. He never sleeps nor slumbers in His watch care over us. His work and His glory are to save us, to exalt us, to see us safely home with Him.

Everything He does is in support of that ultimate purpose, no matter what refinements or trials are required in the achievement of that objective. Acknowledging the dimensions of His majesty and all quantum physics of the universe, from the budding of a flower in spring to expanding realms of galaxies without number, God’s singular, solitary quest is to bless and exalt His children, to save (if they will let Him) every human soul. . . .

And as the Apostle Paul would later ask, “If God be for us, who [or we might add, what] can be against us? . . . We are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”

Read the full article at LDS Living.

Image via Deseret News

Pornography “ought to be seen like a public health crisis; like a war; like an infectious, fatal epidemic; like a moral plague on the body politic that is maiming the lives of our citizens,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said in his keynote address at the Utah Coalition Against Pornography’s 14th annual conference on March 12. Over 2,700 people attended the day-long conference in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City.

“I can’t tell you, really, much you don’t already know about the evils of pornography,” Elder Holland said. “I’ll tell you that pornography is steadily, inexorably, unendingly, that there is more of it, that it’s easier for everyone, including children, to access, and that it continues to rend the very moral fabric of our society whether that be the family, or the community, or the very state or the nation. That is because in every case, it rends the moral fabric of the individual.”

He cited a major study by the Barna Group, entitled “The Porn Phenomenon,” to be released next month. It found that not only has the topic lost much of its taboo status in popular culture, but the attitudes of younger generations have shifted toward neutral or positive views of pornography, he said. “It is reported that 89 percent of teens and 95 percent of young adults regularly have either ‘encouraging’ or ‘accepting’ conversations with their peers about pornography use,” Elder Holland said. “That means that of those interviewed only 1 in 20 young adults and only 1 in 10 teens say they and their friends think viewing pornography is a bad thing.”

Read the full article at Deseret News.

In light of the Face to Face event this evening, Elder Jeffrey R Holland chose one particular question to answer in advance:
I served a mission, but it was only four months long. I returned from my mission early due to mental health problems. It’s really difficult not to feel like a failure. I’m not even sure if it was my fault…what do I do? How can I look at my short mission the way that I should?”

First Face to Face QuestionI have been reading the questions you are asking for the #LDSFace2Face event tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. MST. I encourage you to keep asking them in the comments below. We will continue to watch the questions as they come in. In the meantime, I’d like to go ahead and answer one of the questions that I saw from a young man who asked about how he should feel after returning home early from his mission due to mental health problems.

Posted by Jeffrey R Holland on Monday, March 7, 2016

 

To hear Elder Holland answer more of the questions you face every day as a young single adult, tune in tonight on LDS.org, BYUtv, or the Mormon Channel at 6pm MST.