In recent years, Mormonism has been doing much better when talking about depression and mental health struggles, helping destigmatize them and encouraging its members to seek assistance. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s October 2013 General Conference address, “Like a Broken Vessel” spoke candidly about these topics, and the church’s mental health section at LDS.org/mentalhealth is likewise open-hearted about depression and mental health illnesses, and also teaches us about ways we can compassionately interact with those in our families, wards, and circle of contacts who grapple with them.
In non-official LDS circles, the LoveLoud Festival (now a month away from its second event) has raised awareness about the suicide crisis among Utah teens and young adults, especially those who identify as LGBT+. LoveLoud’s founder, LDS rock star Dan Reynolds of the band Imagine Dragons, has just this past week been featured in a full-length documentary, Believer (began airing June 25th on HBO) about his coming to awareness about the struggles of LGBT Mormons, and his energetic work in conceiving and organizing the first festival. We are grateful for both of these great developments.
Just as with every medical issue, though, it’s important to explore as fully as we can the literature and scientific research surrounding it. And in the case of depression and suicide, as well as several other mental health issues, the findings don’t present as clean a picture as most of us have understood about the efficacy and advisability of even short-time use of anti-depressants, especially among teens and young adults, as well as about long-term benefits for most everyone. The first line treatment program for clinical depression today is drug therapy (and recent church-initiated mental health education affirming this approach), but increasingly, many researchers are asking if that should be the case.
This episode features two important voices who are asking questions like this: Robert Whitaker, a celebrated journalist and author who focuses on science and medicine, and Jacob Hess, Ph.D., a mental health researcher and advocate for better discussions about important questions such as “How can people find more sustainable healing from depression?” Neither Bob nor Jacob are anti- anti-depressants so much as pro- “informed consent.” In this discussion, they overview much of the literature about long-term anti-depressant outcomes and offer background into the paradigm shift that took place some thirty years ago when anti-depressant use began to soar, and they compare it with actual findings about both short- and long-term outcomes. They also share information about many factors that contribute to depression, anxiety, and several other mental health challenges and what research is showing about effective therapies that help with those either in combination with medication or without it.
The story they tell is fascinating, as well as difficult to hear but also hopeful. We hope you will pay close attention to this episode and share it with those you know who could benefit from hearing a wider view on today’s understanding of the causes of many mental health struggles and prevailing treatment approaches.
Depression Risk Factor Inventory
Based on the medical literature showing anything contributing to depression, this inventory can help someone identify areas of depression vulnerability (or strength), in turn providing data to create a comprehensive plan of possible adjustments that could support more sustainable healing.
Mindweather 101 Class
Nearly seven hours of free online education from researchers and mindfulness teachers on the potential of a more gentle approach to pursuing sustainable healing from serious mental/emotional distress–co-created by Jacob Hess & Thomas McConkie.
Robert Whitaker’s comprehensive summaries of the scientific evidence documenting long-term outcome of psychotropic meds: Anatomy of an Epidemic (here are specific summaries of the historical & empirical evidence specific to antidepressants).
Robert Whitaker’s mental health site (started after his first book Mad in America), now one of the more popular mental health reform websites: Mad in America
List of additional recovery resources to support those seeking more sustainable healing from depression, anxiety, and ADHD –- as well as wise support for safe tapering.
Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care – the leading national foundation gathering resources for more innovative research and development of recovery-oriented supports.
Jacob Hess’s 2018 summaries of these mental health questions and possibilities – the first, a general summary & the second a summary specific to the Latter-day Saint community:
(1) A Plea for a More Honest + Less Despairing American Mental Health Conversation (video)
(2) Why I Believe My Faith’s Embrace of the NAMI Approach Is Ultimately Hurting People Facing Depression (Despite Earnest Intentions Otherwise);
Jacob Hess’s two recent pieces on suicide:
(1) Ten Simple Things We Can Do Immediately to Reduce Suicide: A Zero-Cost Public Mental Health Proposal
(2) Another Hypothesized Contributor to Youth Suicide That We’re (Mostly) Not Talking About. Can We Start Now?