The Mormon Therapist on Teen Suicide

John Dehlin Mormon 77 Comments

Recently a 16-year-old young man from our ward hung himself. It was a horrendous shock for everyone, as this was a handsome, well-liked boy. The young man’s family began immediately to say that it was an accidental death, but it was ruled a suicide by the coroner. Why does someone do something like this? Does the method of suicide give any clues? This apparently happened in a closet, and it was not a long closet. He REALLY wanted to end his life and it must have been a horrendous death. I appreciate any insight you may have on this issue in general.

I am so very sorry to hear about this tremendous loss. Suicide is always an immense tragedy and leaves everyone in its midst reeling in grief, confusion, frustration, anger, guilt and loss.

Adolescents tend to be impulsive and elusive in nature – a part of their normal developmental stage. Unfortunately these traits can make it difficult to recognize suicidal “warning signs” or behaviors.  Often parents and other adults/teachers can be completely blind-sighted when a teen suicide occurs.  Unless a specific letter or message has been left, it can be difficult to understand the “why.”  Teens often come across problems they don’t know how to solve or able to confide to another (i.e. an unwanted pregnancy, homosexual tendencies, bad grades, a breakup from a significant other, being bullied, sexual assault, abusive home environment, addiction, etc. etc.). Suicide can also bet the worst case scenario of one suffering from an ongoing mental health disorder such as clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and/or substance addiction.

Hangings are becoming a more used method of suicide, especially among adolescent girls. Firearms are still the most used method among males. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens. For every successful attempt, it is estimated that there are 10 unsuccessful attempts. Males are usually more successful in first-time attempts than females due to the methods usually chosen (i.e. firearms vs overdose).

A site on teen depression states: “In a survey of high school students, the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center found that almost 1 in 5 teens had thought about suicide, about 1 in 6 teens had made plans for suicide, and more than 1 in 12 teens had attempted suicide in the last year. As many as 8 out of 10 teens who commit suicide try to ask for help in some way before committing suicide, such as by seeing a doctor shortly before the suicide attempt.”

On a side note, there is a relatively new fad amongst teens and young adults of getting high through suffocation called “the choking game.” Hangings are one method to achieve the lack of oxygen to the brain that causes the high sought after. Many times this can result in an unintended death that can be deemed suicide when in reality it wasn’t. I’m not trying to suggest that this was the case here, but it is important for parents to be aware of this practice. It is important that we discuss these types of issues with our teens so they realize we are aware of the things occurring in their world. “Choking Game” Proves Deadly for Kids and Teens is an article covering this issue more at length.

When anything like this happens in our ward, our school, or elsewhere in our community, it is vital that we have some very frank and open discussions with our own children – even the younger ones. They will hear others talking about what has occurred whether we speak to them or not. This needs to be a time when children can get input and information from their parents and where parents can get a glimpse into their children’s lives that otherwise may not have been possible. Copycat suicides can happen (especially if the teen was a role model or looked up to in some way) and this intensifies the need for us to be having a discussion.

It is important to reiterate to our children that no matter what they are up against, they can come to us for help. There may be consequences to incorrect behaviors, but anything is solvable! As a working team (identify yourselves as that) you can come up with solutions to help them get through whatever they need help with. We need to recognize as Mormon parents that we have very high expectations of our teens. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to undue pressure to perform and teens can be left feeling overwhelmed, unworthy and unable to go to their parents because of fear to disappoint or fear of punishment. This is a difficult balancing act that all parents face.

Mayo Clinic has some useful information regarding the grieving process after a suicide has occurred.

Suicide is a comprehensive article listing statistics, warning signs, etc.

MM readers:

Have you had any personal or community experience with suicide you are comfortable sharing?

Do you see a connection between high LDS expectations and potential for suicide risk?

What do we make of the fact that suicide rates in Utah are higher than the national average?

What parenting advice do you have on striking a good balance between having high expectations and having loving acceptance in light of error and mistakes?

Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist.  She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.

Comments

comments

Comments 77

  1. Quick thought before bed on the statistics in Utah — where are the numbers from, and how far does Utah deviate? 50% of the states will be higher than average. Until I see how many standard deviations Utah (or any other state) is from the average, I don’t think the numbers mean much at all. Now, the fact that the average number of suicides is not zero, that is a problem.

  2. good point Andrew. And one that most people probably wouldn’t think about.

    Maybe I just got lucky, but I never considered suicide and I never had any friends (that I know of) that attempted suicide. But I can definitely see how our church’s high expectations has the potential for increased suicides.

  3. The intermountain area has higher depressive rates than areas more to the South, seems to be related to the amount of daylight. I’ll note that within the area or zone, LDS areas have lower rates than their neighbors.

    Picking up the book Utah in Demographic Perspective years ago was an eyeopener in introducing me to reality versus rumor and popular knowledge.

  4. A couple years ago I was nailing down an erroneous statement from the Deseret News:

    On August 24, the writer Carol Lynn Pearson in a Salt Lake Tribune opinion piece claimed that Utah is the state with the highest rate of suicide for males 15-24 years old. She cited an article by Dennis Romboy and Lucinda Dillon Kinkead, “Deadly taboo: Youth suicide an epidemic that many in Utah prefer to ignore,” Deseret Morning News, April 23, 2006. That article did have a line, “Utah leads the nation in suicides among men aged 15 to 24.”

    However, the CDC has an online database of injury deaths called
    WISQARS. According to this database, Utah’s ranked 8th for suicide among males 15-24 for the years 2000-2004. The annual rates per 100,000 for the top 10 states were:

    Alaska 53.98
    New Mexico 34.64
    Wyoming 32.40
    Montana 30.99
    South Dakota 28.59
    Idaho 27.44
    Arizona 27.29
    Utah 24.26
    West Virginia 23.43
    Colorado 23.30

    Utah does have a high rate of suicide for young males, similar to, but lower than most of its neighboring states. I suppose that when the article was written, “a leading state” mistakingly became “the leading state.”

    Also, an important piece of work for anyone who wants to consider suicide among LDS youth is “Suicide Rates and Religious Commitment in Young Adult Males in Utah” in the American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 155, no. 5, pp. 413-419, 2002. Those interested in the topic can link to the abstract, as well as the full text in html and pdf formats. I knew Sterling Hilton when he was working on his biostatistics PhD at Johns Hopkins. Table 2 gives suicide rates in Utah for teen and young adult males who are active LDS, less-active LDS, and nonmember.

  5. Where I got the statement of Utah suicide rates was Utah.gov which, back in 1999, stated that Utah was 10th in the nation for suicide rates. They also compared Utah suicide numbers with the national average of all other states put combined – therefore, “higher than the national average.” Between 2000 and 2004 Utah climbed to 7th in the nation for most suicides. It is currently the 2nd leading cause of death for Utah males aged 10-44. Rural Utah had a higher rate of suicide and attempted suicide than urban Utah. Of course, none of these statistics are tied to religious practice. 65% of male youths had been diagnosed with some type of psychiatric disorder (i.e. depression) and 63% of male youths had had some contact with the juvenile justice system – albeit mainly for minor offenses. However, the document also clearly states that many of the youth do not meet this “dysfunctional” profile mentioning that many are high achievers and socially active.
    The fact that many of these youth were diagnosed with depression speaks to warning signs that parents were more than likely noticing and trying to get help and treatment for.

  6. #5 Diane, your last paragraph says what I would have said, too. Thanks for sharing your story.

    In a society of high expectations (and they exist in many upper middle class suburbs across America, though perhaps the Mormon culture may contribute to a teen’s perception in Utah, too), it is all too easy for all of us to take blame where there is not blame to be taken, to assume judgement where it is not intended, or to make judgements where they should not be made.

    In the grieving process, it’s not unusual for us to look for reasons, for that one mistake we made that, if corrected, would change the outcome.

    That said, Diane, your advice for parents to help their children get appropriate help from doctors and therapists is excellent. Often as parents we do not recognize signs we see, or we do not see signs. Navigating the maze of health care and mental health care is a daunting task for people who are emotionally stable; doing so in a depressed state can be overwhelming.

  7. A comment of mine is in moderation, likely because it includes several URL links to relevant statistics and to the article “Suicide Rates and Religious Commitment in Young Adult Males in Utah” in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

  8. While I fully expect to be slammed by one or more commenters for bringing up this facet of youth suicide, I have big shoulders, and I’m willing to deal with a few haters in order to state an important message. The Trevor Project, a nationwide organization devoted to helping prevent suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans youth, offers the following statistics:

    (1) Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts 2007 Youth Risk Survey);

    (2) More than 1/3 of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt (D’Augelli AR – Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology 2002);

    (3) LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection (Ryan C, Huebner D, et al – Peds 2009;123(1):346-352).

    Various groups have attempted to compile data specifically relating to suicide among gay, lesbian and bisexual LDS youth. Some overzealously try to attribute every unexplained LDS suicide to conflict over sexual orientation, while others seek to minimize the correlation. The only certain data, of course, comes from those who leave a letter explaining their suicide, or who survive to explain their motivations. I am personally acquainted with individuals who, when they were active LDS members in their youth, attempted suicide as an effort to escape the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between their faith and their sexual orientation.

    In the end, there is simply no pain like being rejected by those persons you’ve trusted to love you (whether your family, your friends, or even your understanding of deity) because of what even some LDS general authorities admit is a “core characteristic” of one’s being, i.e. who you are. If you are a parent, whatever your idea of “high LDS expectations” might be, please, please, please hold yourself to the “high LDS expectation” of loving, accepting, and embracing your child.

  9. TBH, I’m wondering about the Word of Wisdom effect – that is, these high achieving Mormon teens are not self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs.

  10. #8 Nick, I think your statistics are valuable, and your closing statment is appropriate. Sadly, as parents, because we view the stakes as being so high, we sometimes lose sight of where our impact is the greatest.

    #9 Duerma, I’d be interested in statistics on this matter, too. In my own TBM family (of which I’m the dad), I had at least two of my children who turned to self medication, one of whom ended up a heroin addict. I’ve moved far enough along in my own recovery not to accept blame for their choices, but I do know that I’ve also learned over time to do better at heeding Nick’s closing advice to be more loving, accepting and embracing of my children.

  11. I find it interesting and sad that both #5 and #8 felt the need to prep themselves against negative comments. This speaks to the judgment they must have felt when sharing these types of stories/statistics/information in the past. I’m grateful that they have continued to choose to speak even in light of negative responses. I wonder what is so threatening about these types of comments that would cause anyone to react in any way but empathetic? I wonder if it is that we are afraid and want to remove ourselves from the possibility that something similar could happen in our lives or to one of our loved ones? Is it partly due to guilt we personally shoulder for placing judgment to begin with? Is it that we cannot attribute anything negative to a religion that in many other ways offers so many positives? I just wonder what this reactivity is about…
    For me, it is vital that we share these stories, statistics, etc. so we can heal, improve and progress. Thanks for all the comments so far.

  12. It is interesting how much concern we have for suicide by the young. The rate of suicide among men in their 50s is twice that of boys between 15 and 19. For men older than 75, it is triple. There are lots of other things that kill middle-aged and old men, though, and perhaps a sense that they have more of an idea of what they are choosing and that their deaths are less of a loss. The suicide of a 17-year-old nephew is a bigger mistake, loss of potentail, and tragedy than that of a 53-year-old uncle.

    Also, thoughts of suicide and even attempts at it don’t seem like good indicators of risk of suicide, though perhaps an indication of other problems. If, as indicated above, 1 in 5 teens had thoughts of suicide and 1 in 12 attempted suicide last year, but only 1 in 10,000 actually killed himself, then the thoughts and attempts give almost no indication who is at risk.

  13. #12:
    I find it interesting and sad that both #5 and #8 felt the need to prep themselves against negative comments. This speaks to the judgment they must have felt when sharing these types of stories/statistics/information in the past.

    In my case, Natasha, I’ve been rather outspoken in the bloggernacle with regard to GLBT issues. Some commenters have taken offense with this in the past, particularly if the original topic was not specifically centered on homosexuality, in which case I’ve been accused of “turning everything” into a GLBT issue. I’ve tried to be sensitive to this concern, but when I come across a post like this one, I can’t help but bring up what I see as an important aspect of the broader subject.

  14. diane – Those stigmas are very unfortunate. Fortunately, they have declined over the years. Lack of money to pay for services, and lack of trust that the services will help are the top reasons why people avoid therapy currently. The stigmas still exist, but things have improved somewhat over the years. If the topic comes up I always talk about my experience in marriage counseling, just in an attempt to normalize it for others.

  15. #11 – Thanks!
    #12 – I think the problem is still the lingering stigma against mental illness in general. We’ve made a LOT of progress over the last 20 years in becoming empathetic towards those who suffer, but the stigma is still there to some extent, and the hurt from those negative comments linger a LONG time. When you’re chronically depressed, it really, REALLY sucks to hear someone tell you that you’re just faking for sympathy, or you need to just suck it up and try harder, or that you got the suicide idea because you saw it in a movie, or that clearly you just need to repent, etc. (Yes, when I was going through PPD after the birth of my first, I really did hear all those.) It’d be so much easier to be able to point to a big old tumor on a mammogram and say “See, I TOLD you I’m sick.” But just like some people have a hard time believing faith-based experiences without hard evidences, so do people have time believing in an illness without lab results to prove it. (You’re a therapist, so you probably know all that already, but it bears repeating.) As a result, 5 years later, when I talk about my experiences, I feel the need to add similar disclaimers.

    I highly recommend reading Mother Had A Secret by Tiffany Fletcher. It’s about her experience growing up with a mentally ill mother, and the stigmas she faced. While some of her experiences are specific to her situation, I think a lot of what she went through can be applied to anyone with mental illness or with a loved one who suffers.

  16. #11:
    Thank you for pointing out that study, John. I’m very pleased to see that the authors recognized the inherent limitations in using priesthood ordinations as the determinant of LDS activity levels. I wish, however, that they had further explored social support. Their sample, as implied in the study title, was all taken from Utah, which remains a predominantly LDS culture. I would suspect that young men in that state who are either “less active LDS” or “non-LDS” might have less supportive social networks than do young men who are active LDS members.

  17. Diane,

    I have seen the same ignorance on behalf of church members that you have. They don’t expect fasting and prayer to fix a broken leg, but somehow that is all it takes to fix a chemical imbalance. Unfortunately, this thread highlights the struggles of two groups against whom it is acceptable to discriminate against inside the church: mentally ill and GLBT. And they are NOT the same.

    My wife saw her high school boyfriend put a shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger. 25 years later, she still wakes up screaming from nightmares about it.

  18. Diane, are those who refuse to acknowledge research on mental illness doing so because they are in the church or simply ignorant on the matter? Your comment seems to blame the church, but perhaps I’ve misread it.

  19. Diane, as I read the OP, it appears to be about the broad topic of suicide among LDS youth. Natasha actually identified several potential correlating factors, including both homosexual orientation and mental illness. I think it’s natural for the “mental illness” aspect of that to leap out for you, and the “homosexual orientation” aspect of it to leap out for me. I agree with you that we shouldn’t limit the discussion to any single factor, and I believe that the community aspirations you point toward can only benefit from familiarity with the numerous factors which are often involved when young people resort to such a tragic decision.

  20. “What do we make of the fact that suicide rates in Utah are higher than the national average?”

    If suicide is a young man’s game, then the fact that Utah has a relatively younger population than average may account for some of the difference. What about demographics? Suicide rates are higher among American Indians, though at about 2% of Utah’s population, that probably doesn’t budge the scale that much.

    Then there is that weather issue. The cold grey inversions of January/February definitely got me down at BYU.

  21. Nick:
    It’s always sad when someone feels there is no other way out and chooses to end their life by suicide. Life is temporary and Latter Day Saints are asked to not look temporally but to look at eternity. Per the First Presidency, SSA was not present in the pre-existence and will not be present after this life. We are bound by laws and we cannot break the law of chastity and pretend that there are no consequences. If we are faithful and keep the commandments including the law of chastity, we can have it all. I would hope that anyone contemplating suicide remembers how humans really love life and have no desire to die. If one is at the other end of a gun or about to fall off a building, most if not all people think “Oh, God, please don’t let me die” meaning that people really love life and do not want to die. I hope this makes sense.

  22. A close classmate of mine died from suicide shortly after graduation from professional school 17 years ago, which was a devastating experience to go through as someone who had been a “confidante”. During the months after his loss, I had these nightmares that I would see him and he would still be alive, and I would be overjoyed and alarmed at the same time, then he would disappear and the realization that his loss was real would hit me again and I would wake up. These were so disturbing that I wrote them in my journal, which is in a box somewhere.

    Recently I began the painful, but rewarding experience of corresponding with his sister, who was only 11 when he died. I was not close to his family and associating with them at the funeral was very awkward, as they were looking to me for answers that just weren’t there. This was the first contact that I have had with any of them since that difficult funeral day. It was fascinating to me that she described, among the aspects of her grief, that she had the exact same type of dreams.

    I wonder if others have these nightmares. Is it another attempt of our mind to deny that it is real? An attempt to make sense of something that can leave so many unanswered questions?

  23. Nick – re: parents rejecting their children – I think this is a sin on the level of adultery, maybe even worse in some ways. Something like adultery betrays trust in such a significant way that the very view one had of the other person is permanently changed. At least in this case (if there are no kids) it’s two adults. When a parent rejects a child, that child (or teen’s) safe haven is pulled out from under them. The damage for many I’m sure is catastrophic. Much more so (this is my hunch) than adultery, because of the parent-child factor.

  24. Some quick comments:
    Yes, the numbers may be affected, even if slightly, by the Native American population. Although Utah is by no means singular in having reservations.
    SAD is also a factor to consider (seasonal affective disorder) and Utah is somewhat affected by this. But there are many other states that struggle with this at a much higher rate (ie alaska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc).
    Although we want to be aware and take responsibility as parents – it is inappropriate for us to judge parents harshly who have gone through such a devastating tragedy. The guilt for these parents can already feel overwhelming without needing any additional help in this department. The underlying issues that lead to suicide are complex and hardly ever single in nature. It’s easy for us to blame one thing (ie parents or church) in our necessity to make sense of the situation. Parents and family members who have had this happen need more than ever OUR unconditional love.

  25. #25:
    Per the First Presidency, SSA was not present in the pre-existence and will not be present after this life.

    Henry, I don’t mean to be beligerent, but where have you found this stated specifically by the First Presidency of the LDS church? This statement was first made by Dallin Oaks, and was repeated by Jeffrey R. Holland. Doctrinal statements by individual members of the Quorum of the Twelve, of course, are not regarded as definitive in the same way that a statement by the First Presidency, or even the united voice of the Quorum of the Twelve, are considered binding. To my knowledge, this is a doctrinal speculation, not a definitive statement of LDS doctrine.

    We are bound by laws and we cannot break the law of chastity and pretend that there are no consequences.

    Henry, please understand that my comments here are not in any way aimed at influencing the LDS church to change its doctrine with regard to sexual morality. I’m not even asking parents to change their beliefs and conclude that homosexuality is approved by their deity. Rather, my intent is to influence parents, friends, and local leaders to shelter these young people in love, rather than condemning them. Joseph Smith stated this ideal well, when he spoke of the local ministers who condemned him after he described his first vision. As Joseph said, if these men considered him deluded, they ought to have been all the more kind and loving in their efforts to “reclaim” him, rather than rejecting and ostracizing him as they did.

    Henry, many LDS youth have been rejected by their families, their friends, and their fellow church members for stating that they believe they may be gay or lesbian. Too often, these youth have been kicked out of their parents’ homes and disowned. These young people typically end up homeless, and become involved in prostitution and other vices as a means to survive and/or cope. Knowing that this could happen (because it has happened to others), some LDS youth would rather end their life than lose the love of their parents, etc., so they take their secret with them to the grave.

    I’m sure you’ll agree that any parent who would reject, disown or “cast out” their child for saying he was gay is entirely missing the principle of love, upon which Jesus taught all the commandments were based.

  26. Rigel
    What an amazing opportunity you have taken to correspond with your friend’s sister! I hope you both can find solace and maybe even some closure as you talk with one another.
    Dreams are a natural place for us to explore our unconscious fears, thoughts, feelings, etc. Many report having vivid dreams when in time of crisis. At the same time, dreams are also spiritual experiences if you choose to interpret them as
    such. Feeling the presence of a loved one after death is documented clearly through the ages and in all cultures.

  27. Parents and family members who have had this happen need more than ever OUR unconditional love.

    Absolutely agreed, Natasha. My hope is to give a warning voice for the present and future, not to cast aspersions against those who have suffered in the past.

  28. I see the comment I left this morning remains in moderation, and some comments have come up since that it may help with a little, so I’ll try again without so many links. A couple years I was trying to nail down a much quoted line from the Desereet News about Utah having the highest rate of suicide among the young:

    On August 24, [2008] the writer Carol Lynn Pearson in a Salt Lake Tribune opinion piece claimed that Utah is the state with the highest rate of suicide for males 15-24 years old. She cited an article by Dennis Romboy and Lucinda Dillon Kinkead, “Deadly taboo: Youth suicide an epidemic that many in Utah prefer to ignore,” Deseret Morning News, April 23, 2006. That article did have a line, “Utah leads the nation in suicides among men aged 15 to 24.”

    However, the CDC has an online database of injury deaths called
    WISQARS. According to this database, Utah’s ranked 8th for suicide among males 15-24 for the years 2000-2004. The annual rates per 100,000 for the top 10 states were:

    Alaska 53.98
    New Mexico 34.64
    Wyoming 32.40
    Montana 30.99
    South Dakota 28.59
    Idaho 27.44
    Arizona 27.29
    Utah 24.26
    West Virginia 23.43
    Colorado 23.30

    Utah does have a high rate of suicide for young males, similar to, but lower than most of its neighboring states. I suppose that when the article was written, “a leading state” mistakingly became “the leading state.”

  29. Henry, I don’t mean to be beligerent, but where have you found this stated specifically by the First Presidency of the LDS church?

    Pamphlet
    God Loveth His Children

  30. “If suicide is a young man’s game” . . .

    It is not. The rate for 15- to 19-year-olds is 12.0 per 100,000 males. It jumps to 20.7 for 20- to 24-year-olds, goes up bit by bit to reach a peak of 25.4 for 45- to 49-year-olds, dips a little to 21.4 and 21.5 for the 60-64 and 65-69 age brackets, then climbs with old age, reaching 39.8 for those 80-84 and 46.3 for 85+. Retirement seems to make life easier for a little while before the difficulties of old age pile up.

  31. Henry, I’m familiar with “God Loveth His Children.” It’s been a while since I read it, so I just pulled it up online, and re-read it to see if it actually includes the statement you attribute to the First Presidency. I even re-read it a second time, just to avoid making a fool of myself. Nowhere in the pamphlet does it indicate that homosexual attraction did not exist prior to mortality, and/or will not exist after mortality. At most, it implies that orientation may change, using words like “currently,” “presently,” and “overcome.”

    I don’t think that every publication of the LDS church is necessarily a statement of the First Presidency, or even directly approved by them (more often approved by those they appointed). If we assume that a pamphlet published by the LDS church is an official statement of the First Presidency, however, then perhaps it’s notable that this particular piece of doctrinal speculation does not appear in the pamphlet.

  32. Diane:
    That’s a touchy one. Naturally, no one can judge the personal faithfulness of another. But something is wrong if you attempt suicide. Something is out of whack. It reminds me on a church film I saw. A young guy was trying to jump off a bridge to kill himself. You see the hand of Christ on his shoulder trying to stop him from that. If you can recognize signs of potential tragedy, I hope that one acts to prevent it.

    Nick:
    I must have a different edition because it does state that in mine.

  33. diane, doesn’t a suicidal person have much bigger problems than the judgments of others? If a person is having so much misery or disappointment with life as to kill himself, that some people think poorly of him for doing it seems like thin icing on the cake.

  34. John:
    Not always, but for many the judgment of others can feel overwhelming, daunting and dooming.
    Most of us are not “healthy” enough to not care what others think of us. We all care to some point how we are perceived – especially by our loved ones.

  35. #30—“I’m sure you’ll agree that any parent who would reject, disown or “cast out” their child for saying he was gay is entirely missing the principle of love, upon which Jesus taught all the commandments were based.”

    Except those parents, Nick, that listen to a current apostle, like Elder Oaks who said “I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say… “Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your “partnership.””

    This is so disturbing on so many levels. Even the word “partnership” in quotations marks gets my blood boiling. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends. How little do you have to think of a child of yours to not introduce them to your friends?

  36. @41-
    Sometimes the difference between someone who is depressed and someone who is so depressed they want to take their life is a support network. You could have the greatest friends in the world, but if you can’t bear to reveal your dark feelings to them and start on the road to getting the help you need, then it’s pretty much the same as having no support at all. From personal experience, I can tell you that I did not start recovering from my suicidal feelings until I overcame my fear of judgment from others and began to communicate.

  37. “Have you had any personal or community experience with suicide you are comfortable sharing?” Our neighbor in SLC killed himself a few years ago. He was 26, new baby, recently divorced, living beyond his means. He left no note. He had talked to others about some major plans that were in the future. There really were no signs.

    “Do you see a connection between high LDS expectations and potential for suicide risk?” Maybe, but perhaps more directly related not to expectations but to lack of understanding how to deal with major setbacks in life, lack of self-awareness, and a tendency to put on a happy face and mask problems.

    “What do we make of the fact that suicide rates in Utah are higher than the national average?” Another possible reason I didn’t see above (in a cursory glance) is genetics. It is also noted that Amish societies (even more insular than Utah) have high suicide rates, probably due to genetics.

    “What parenting advice do you have on striking a good balance between having high expectations and having loving acceptance in light of error and mistakes?” You have to talk to your kids every day and be aware when they are up or down. You have to make it clear (frequently) to them that there is no problem they could face that you would not support them in. And parents need to be ready to help if there are teen pregnancies, if a child is homosexual, etc. These are big issues. We signed up for parenting, and we should prepare to deal with whatever may come as best we can.

  38. Perhaps I am being minimalistic. I think a lot of people are trying to attach the issues that worry them, or things they don’t like, to suicide, which is too bad since those things, such as an understanding of mental health, may be important in their own right. As part of my minimalism, looking at proxies for suicide, such as thoughts or attempts, raises my skepticism.

    Mention of an Asian bishop brings to mind the racial demographics of suicides. High rates among Native Americans were mentioned, but the rate for whites is almost as high, 29.4 vs. 27.4 for men between 25 and 64. Rates for blacks, hispanics, and Asians in that age bracket are 12.7, 11.1, and 9.5. Something to consider when wondering about Utah’s suicide statistics, and also when dealing with an Asian who sees suicide differently. For him, it is different.

    http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/suicide/statistics/rates04.html

  39. 46 Diane, I know you have strong personal feelings based on your experience, but let’s not judge an entire race that way. You say that “in the Asian community they do not recognize or even talk about issues like depression.”

    It might surprise you to know, therefore, that in Taipei, Taiwan (a pretty Asian community) the city government funds a center which provides sliding scale psychological services expressly for the prevention of suicide.

  40. diane (#23),

    I am sorry if you interpreted my comment as focusing on discrimination, but part of the discussion here is what kind of effect the support of the community has on someone who is contemplating suicide, whether we are talking about the church in general or specifically about the family. There are some stressors in life that church members recognize and will provide all kinds of help and support to make a person feel welcome and loved. People with mental health problems and GLBT are not always near the top of those who are welcomed and supported. More often than not, they are told that they can and must “change,” and that their inability or unwillingness to do so is evidence of a lack of faith, or worse, a lack of trying. I don’t know many people who suffer mental illness who are glad that they do, and most would give anything to be free from that. It is still rare to hear talks in general conference or see articles in church publications that don’t at least imply that the way to heal from depression, for example, is mostly a matter of deciding to be cheerful. That unthinking counsel leads some folks into stop taking their medicine, sometimes with disastrous results.

    At the same time, there is very little support for the GLBT community, who are told, sometimes quite bluntly, that there is something wrong with them and that they lack faith to be “straight.” I know my experience level is limited, but both my wife’s brother and my brother’s ex-wife are much happier out of the church, since they have been made to feel very unwelcome.

    That lack of support, combined with being told that there is either something wrong with you or that you don’t have enough faith to be “better” has to be a contributing factor in some suicides. One thing both communities have in common is that it is rare for a ward or branch to welcome them with love and understanding. We need more talks and articles in the Ensign about reaching out. It is just as unlikely that the church’s new PR campaign will have someone saying “I’m gay, and I’m a Mormon” as it is that it will have someone saying “I have clinical depression, and I’m a Mormon.”

  41. Diane:
    I get the feeling from you that things are hopeless and are never going to change. You seem dejected. There are many good approaches to dealing with the issue of suicide. I hope we can work together as nations and communities to combat this issue. In the Book of Mormon when the Nephites are slaying the Lamanites many of them express sorrow at having to send so many of their brethren out of this world unprepared to meet God. you might interpret this like you did before that I am saying that those who attempt suicide or are successful are not righteous. When I hear of a suicide, I feel sorrow. It’s not a happy thing. We are here to help one another so if anyone sees any signs, obvious or not, try to act on it.
    This is somewhat of a cheesy story but it is featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul. A teacher wanted to do a little project for her students. She brought ribbons to the class. She asked everyone to go to any person they wanted to and tell them how much they appreciated them or loved them. Whatever was on their minds. The catch was that you had to instruct the person that they were to do the same and go to someone else so that the gift would keep on giving. This man ended up with the ribbon. He came home and was trying to decide what to do with it. He thought of his wife and daughter and everything seemed to be fine with them. His thoughts kept going to his son. He was nervous as most fathers are in talking to their sons about emotional topics but he just decided to go in and talk to him. He went up to him and told him that he loved him and hugged him and pinned the ribbon on him. The son could not stop sobbing and the father asked him if he was okay. The son replied that he was planning to kill himself that night because he wasn’t sure if his father loved him.
    You never know whose life you might be saving.

  42. 51 Diane — My only point is that the Asian community is quite diverse. Are there cultural barriers to discussing thoughts of suicide? Probably. There certainly are in our culture, too. But it surprises me that you would paint all Asians with the same brush. Japanese, Koreans, Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese are all distinct cultures (not to mention Hmong, Vietnamese, Thai and Filipino). I don’t in any way dispute you experience in your ward.

    If I were to assume that your responses were because you were a woman, you would rightfully be enraged. You are a unique individual, influenced by your own culture, but also your own unique life experiences and your own unique chemistry. I’m just asking for a little sensitivity. Having done that, I’m done.

  43. Interesting conversation.

    “there is a relatively new fad amongst teens and young adults of getting high through suffocation called “the choking game.”

    This used to be the max in masturbation too!

    Do you see a connection between high LDS expectations and potential for suicide risk? No…if anything the church encourages people to live in ways that may help avoid suicide. But is it fair to assume that the church is to blame somehow or that there is a connection between high church expectations and potential for suicide? that is if a young person fails to live up to the LDS ideal that they are then more likely to commit suicide? Or is it that mental health issues existed anyways and that person would’ve found another trigger? because youth that fail to meet the lds ideal seem to go inactive more than suddenly ‘find’ mental health issues. Mental health surely isn’t biased against a religion or race nor determined by it, surely?

    What do we make of the fact that suicide rates in Utah are higher than the national average? Isn’t Utah the most Republican state? Why not blame this (alleged) correlation between Utah and suicide to Republicanism? Like thinking that Bush is some war hero, and that the US government is promoting a conspiracy….that Obama is muslim….plenty of reasons to think of suicide once you realize how wrong you were 🙂 yeah, Bush is to blame! 🙂

  44. diane, your experience is your experience. It doesn’t make you an expert on all the factors surrounding suicide, just the ones you are personally familiar with. It also doesn’t give you authority to dismiss my cold, statistical, fact-based, masculine approach to this issue as odd and disturbing. That’s how I deal with things. “How dare you,” yourself.

  45. @Diane, the main point I wanted to make when I brought up the question about statistics and numbers in the very first post is because as a scientist, I see statistics misused all the time. I don’t want people to connect dots between a dominant religion in Utah, Utah being above average in suicides therefore LDS causes suicide without a lot more research. Correlation does not mean causation, and in this case, I’m not even sure there is a correlation. That’s all I meant. And, I don’t think it’s a male thing — my wife as a historian also gets frustrated when she sees statistics used poorly. I think its just what I’m used to dealing with.

    As I concluded in my last sentence before, the fact that the average is above zero means the rest of us are doing something wrong. I meant that in the personal sense of the parable of the 99 and 1: Even one human person matters. Have I been open enough about my willingness to provide a listening ear to those I know? Do I show concern for those around me? Am I concerned for those around me? Do I know when to tell a friend to get professional help?
    To me, those questions are implied when I think about the numbers involved.

    To the OP about personal experiences: In our last ward, my wife and I had a friend who called us up in the evening, crying. We went over, and saw the blood on the floor from her wrists. Instantly we knew we were in way over our heads. Luckily, my dad is a social worker, so I called him, and said ‘HELP!’. He said she needed professional help, so we tried to make sure our friend got it. Other than learn how to get blood stains off of linoleum, and listen over many late nights, there isn’t much else we could do. But I hope in some way, it helped. When we moved, she was alive, and moving on with her life after her divorce, so hopefully things are better. Alas we don’t know, because all our mail keeps coming back with moved, no forwarding address.

  46. I see really great value in both the “numbers” and the “personal” approaches that have been discussed so far. I think there is validity in both. I’m saddened that some have seemed to take offense by other people’s comments. I guess this is somewhat inevitable, especially when it comes to a subject that affects many in a very personal way. I know there is a lot of hurt, pain and previous disappointment underlying a lot of this and I am sorry that this is the case.

    However, I would ask that when feeling offended or misunderstood – that we be willing to take a step back and just breathe. After all, if it is minds that we want to change – we will not be successful without a vulnerable and empathic heart (this is true, regardless of what side of the argument one is on). Becoming defensive is a normal, primitive mechanism we fall into in order to protect ourselves. We all do it. It’s unfortunate, however, because it usually elicits exactly the opposite of what we hope and yearn for.

  47. Diane:
    I’m feeling a lot of anguish?, pain?, frustration? from you at this point. I don’t want to assume – it’s just the feeling I get. I hope you won’t take offense to this offer, but I would love to be able to speak/write to you on a more private platform. Would you be willing to contact me via my email address: natasha.parker@sbcglobal.net? If not, I completely understand.

  48. #60:
    I am wondering why the men who have commented on this topic have chosen to deal with the issue of Suicide from a purely statistical outlook?

    Checking myself….yup, I’m a man. Checking my comments above…nope, I didn’t choose to deal with the issue of suicide from a purely statistical outlook. Checking #60 and subsequent statements…yup, rampant anti-male sexism.

    #65:
    I have a more personalized approached to the problem and it is offsetting to the men on this post…This is just how different men and women tend to think about the subject.

    Yup…more rampant anti-male sexism. I’m no psychologist, but I’m picking up not-so-subtle hints of some major resentment toward anyone who happens to own a pair of testicles.

    #69:
    However, all I gleaned from the responses were statistics (incredibly frustrating because they don’t tell the whole story

    Diane, perhaps that’s “all you gleaned,” because you personally decided that the only relevant responses in this discussion were those which addressed mental illness. Alternatively, given the nature of your comments #60 and #65, perhaps you’re just slightly predisposed to disregard, misinterpret, and/or resent any comments made by any male commenter.

    Apparently Henry either didn’t read my post completely and or he felt he had the right to personally attack me and then only offer a pamphlet as a response for his comment.

    Actually, Diane, Henry’s pamphlet reference was directed solely at my comments. The pamphlet he referred to (which absolutely does not include the language he attributed to it) is one published by the LDS church regarding homosexuality (or, as the LDS church and other anti-gay organizations love to deceptively refer to it, “same sex attraction”). Believe it or not, this entire discussion isn’t about you, Diane.

  49. #71:
    That being said not every issue is about the Gay, lesbian transgendered community as well, yet you seem to insert it every where you stated this by your own admission. The issue of the OP was about Suicide and how to help those who are either a victim of it, meaning a family member or the prevention of the person taking their own life.

    Actually, Diane, I said that a few particular commenters make that accusation, not that their accusation is correct. Furthermore, your increasingly narrow redefinition of the OP is simply not reflected in what Natasha wrote. I find it quite telling that even when you claim that the topic is “the prevention of the person taking their own life,” you want to shut down any discussion of how parents, friends, and church leaders can help prevent the suicide of LDS youth who happen to be gay or lesbian. Perhaps you don’t think those particular young lives are really worthy of being saved?

    Am I sexist, I don’t know I’d like to think not. Given the responses by the same men who participated on the other OP about women and priesthood i find that charge again ludicrous.

    We’re not talking about women and the priesthood, nor is this the “other OP” you speak of.

    Many who have posted on that OP don’t believe women have the right to have any authority what so ever because we wouldn’t know how to handle it and would corrupt the church if we had it. That’s sexist That’s devaluing me simply because I have breast and and a uterus.

    Agreed, but that has little or nothing to do with the discussion at hand. It seems you are taking out your frustration about another blog posting on those of us participating here. Personally, I never saw the “other OP” you speak of.

    Those same men who stated that are posting here on this OP so what am I to make of that now that I really know how the same men really feel about women both in what they say and how they contribute.

    You didn’t comment regarding “those same men,” Diane. Rather, you claimed that all the men who commented in this discussion were only discussing statistics, were ignoring people or treating people as numbers, and didn’t care about people. Your blanket accusation was patently false, Diane, and since you made it toward all men participating in this discussion, you were devaluing them simply because they had testicles. That’s sexist.

    I stated that I saw the discussion points from a statistical stand point as being odd and if not disturbing. I also found it odd that it was men who were making the discussion standpoint all about statistics. Sorry go back and check for yourself.

    Actually, I did go back and check for myself, Diane, and it seems your recollection is about as accurate as Henry’s recollection of “God Loveth His Children.” You didn’t say it was odd “that it was men who were making the discussion standpoint all about statistics.” Rather, you said (to quote): “I am wondering why the men who have commented on this topic have chosen to deal with the issue of Suicide from a purely statistical outlook? I find that odd if not disturbing,” You made a blanket statement regarding all men who were participating in this discussion, Diane. That statement was inaccurate and sexist.

    I shared my story in hopes of having a jumping off point to discuss mental health issues and the difficulty of navigating the health care system when one is suffering from depression.

    Why would you do that, Diane, when you’ve already told us that the OP was about “Suicide and how to help those who are either a victim of it, meaning a family member or the prevention of the person taking their own life”? So far as I can tell, Natasha never raised the issue of “mental health issues and the difficulty of navigating the health care system when one is suffering from depression.” Why is it okay for you to completely hijack the discussion, especially when you accuse others of doing the same thing, where they actually discussed things Natasha specifically wrote about? You’re attempting to hold others (particularly men, it seems) to a standard which you, yourself, are not willing to adhere.

    [Henry] also by referencing the pamphelet attempted to debased [sic] the issue of gay, lesbian trangender mental health issue and simply reduce it to a matter of one not trying hard enough to want to change. I have also heard that crap. Mental health issues are not issues that one can simply try hard enough to get rid of. This again is dismissive and disrespectful to anyone suffering from those issues.

    Diane, while I agree that Henry’s condemnation and oversimplification were unfortunate and troubling, your comment is outright peculiar. Similarly, in #69, you referred to GLBT youth as people “having a problem with their sexuality.” Diane, what evidence do you have to indicate that being gay, lesbian, or transgendered is a “problem” or a “mental health issue,” from which people “suffer?” Is this why you seem so eager to shut down discussion of suicide among GLBT youth who are rejected and condemned by their parents, friends, and church leaders?

  50. #75:
    That’s not what I said at all and you know it and all it does is make me furious with you because at this point I think all your [sic] interested in is being write [sic] and to argue. You need to stop insinuating things that I’m not saying actually read and if you don’t understand that aske [sic] that Ill clarifu [sic]

    Pardon? I copied and pasted your anti-male blanket statement verbatim. Ergo, it most certainly was what you said.

    what I did say is this that I think the OP is about the prevention of suicide, and its’ causes and how to help the family members left behind in a caring meaning ful way.

    Yes, and I directly commented on one of the causes of suicide among LDS youth, along with how others can help to prevent it. As a result, you repeatedly accused me of being off-topic.

    What I did say is that the issue of suicide is much more that issues of GLBT community, much more than numbers and statistics, much more than religion.

    Who ever said otherwise, Diane? Where did I ever suggest that suicide was only an issue with regard to LDS youth who are GLBT? Your comment points more toward your own prejudices, than it does toward anything I’ve said.

    As far as the issue with statistics and number, sorry but I have read and re-read the post, all of the responses were by men except two and the only other male who responded with a personal response was rigel, perhaps because I think if I’m not mistaken he is a doctor which is why he probably felt comfortable sharing his experience.

    Diane, this simply isn’t true. Other than briefly citing The Trevor Project in order to establish that a particular problem existed within the broad topic of suicide among LDS youth, my original comment was all about dealing with individuals as unique persons, deserving of love and support. Unfortunately, you blinded yourself and attempted to blind others, claiming that my post (one among all those evil testicle-owners) was nothing but statistics. You’ve suddenly decided to exempt Rigel from your sexist rants, but just so you know, I’ve never heard any evidence that he’s been castrated, so maybe you’ll have to reconsider your graciousness toward him.

  51. Diane, nobody has said that everything you have contributed is “worthless and invalid.” In fact, I wouldn’t agree with that statement in any way. I simply wanted to point out that (a) in the midst of your accusations against men you perceived as sexist, you were actually making sexist statements of your own, and (b) your comments suggested that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered was a mental illness–a claim that no responsible therapist has accepted since the early 1970s.

  52. Do you see a connection between high LDS expectations and potential for suicide risk?

    I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, therefore here is shortened version of my Mormon experience. I have never been suicidal, but the following experiences in the Church made me feel at my most depressed ever in my life. I believe had I had severe depression, some of the below aspects would have led me to the edge of taking my life.

    I recently distanced myself from the LDS Church because my LDS experience in Utah was placing a huge burden on my self-esteem and my emotional health. I am a Mexican, and I have read and studied carefully the parts of LDS history that seem to me to be infested with anti-minority and bigoted rhetoric. From the casts systems teachings of Bruce McConkie, to the extremely bigoted talk that addresses racial isolation and racial hygiene by Mark E. Petersen, to the racist scriptural references in the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price that link skin color/lineages with spiritual worthiness, etc; to the uninspired racist priesthood ban and the Church’s attempt to blame God for it, to the current rhetoric and vicious characterization of Hispanics due to the current heated political debate about immigration in UT.

    Though I am a very literate individual, served a successful mission, finished an engineering degree, work as a quality engineer in the medical device industry, have never been in the USA illegally, have strived to keep the commandments and remain Temple worthy, exercise regularly to preserve a bodybuilder’s shape and top physical condition, groom and dress like a classy professional, and look (IMO) better than 99% of Caucasians I see in my daily life; it is clear to me that notwithstanding all these things, I am not good enough to be a Mormon and nor to be fully accepted in the Mormon community. Some aspects of me seem to break too much the stereotype they try to impose on me, thus the community doesn’t know how to react and they keep their distance. Some aspects of me are still not enough and never will be since the expectation is always going to be higher and unattainable (No matter what I do, I will never be a tall Caucasian or I will never qualify as “being born in the covenant,” or my “lineage” will never be as chosen, or my last name will never be Romney, blah blah blah etc etc etc).

    I attended Church for the last 19 years since I was first baptized when I was a teenager. I am still very aware of the LDS attitudes that put me in a “2n class” spiritual status because of my “lineage,” (something that LDS people worry a bit too much about IMO). And I still feel unwanted, surrounded by many smiley people that claim to care about me but feeling alone because deep inside I seem to have made my mind up that they really don’t.

    I went to Elders Quorum meetings to hear how imperfect I am because I am a man. How bad the nature of man is, how much better women are because they attend more church activities and they attend the temple more often, and their visiting teaching numbers are better, and they are well mannered and full of reason, while we men, well, we are little more than animals, we struggle to be civilized, educated and considerate, because we are naturally pigs.

    I went to Sunday School to hear of how blessed the people around me are for being born American and being born “in the covenant;” and how much more special their spirits were in the pre-existence over other spirits to deserve such honor. I obviously was one of the “other” spirits.

    I went to Sacrament meeting to hear stories similar to those I read in Church magazines: wonderful miraculous experiences that strengthened the main characters of those stories, but that will likely never happen to me. I read about how money miraculously appeared on someone’s account after paying tithing, or I hear about how somebody has great home teachers that inspire and nurture them, or how someone felt the love of God so strongly because of this or because of that. I hear of how great are the blessings of having a family sealed in the temple (another thing that will never happen to me).

    Lately going to church for me was an experience of anxiety, sadness and frustration; feeling that I have failed as a Mormon and (looking at my jet black hair in the mirror) as a child of God. Acknowledging the cloudy uncertainty hovering over my “eternal blessings,” and feeling like I am from a different “cast” (as put by McConkie), among the chosen people of the covenant. I truly was depressed by the whole system, the whole structure: the teachings, the attitudes and the boasting of blessings some of us don’t have on my face.

    I have felt that this community in general doesn’t really understand nor follow the Lord Jesus Christ and His teachings. I am not trying to say they aren’t Christian, or that they aren’t trying. I am saying that their limited understanding of the love of Christ and their anachronic and primitive religious culture limits the amount they could understand and follow Christ, because the good will and the good disposition are definitely there, but some of their anachronic and primitive views in certain areas are like endless ice cold iron walls that won’t let them feel nor express the true love of Christ.

    Now that I have taken a break from all that insanity and put things in perspective, I feel so much better about myself, I have been able to recognize my accomplishments. My relationship with God has improved significantly, since now that relationship is not defined by a group of bigoted white conservatives spewing anachronic dogmas that hardly fit a true Christian context.

    I have learned to acknowledge the shortcomings of both Mormon teachings and Mormon culture and their detrimental effect in minorities. I have been able to look at the Church as a community more objectively, I have been able to admire better the great things they do (and there are many) and the stupid things that blind their sight (and there are many).

    I have been able to look at myself objectively, the things I have accomplished and the things I need to work on, and they are no longer a function of my pre-mortal spiritual character, but they are a function of my efforts and the endless random universal chaos that brings both opportunities and obstacles and how I take or fail to take advantage of either.

    As Nick Litersky has commented on the brutal abuse of homosexuals in the Church (disowning them and leaving them without any love and support is probably the most tangible aspect of the Mormon lack of understanding of the love of Christ and the most inhumane and un-divine characteristic of a fallen and blind state), I agree with him that this is most likely a factor in suicide rates, as backed by the statistics. These actions seem to me cold blooded and I feel that “disowning” one’s children is reprehensible and most likely will have to be overcome and paid for in order to go back to Heavenly Father. We are here to love each other and to help each other; now how does disowning someone fits into that equation? It does not. Another epic failure in understanding the love of Christ.

    What parenting advice do you have on striking a good balance between having high expectations and having loving acceptance in light of error and mistakes?

    I think the balance should be this: loving acceptance should be above and have a higher priority than having high expectations. Leave the “high” expectations to God, leave the judgment to Him; He knows us and knows how much and how far we can get, and He loves us more than we are capable of understanding or expressing, He paid for our sins and transgressions, so He is the ultimate judge. He also let us know repeatedly through His teachings and His example that love is the one single characteristic of those who try to be like Him. Loving acceptance is what we have been commanded to show to each other. As for having high expectations from each other and acting one way or another, I don’t recall that being part of the two great commandments. Of course, we need to let go of that un-Christian silly contradiction of “we love the sinner but hate the sin,” to justify all sorts of un-Christian attitudes against others. Instead we should use the true Christian principle: “he who is free of sin, let him cast the first stone.” While parents don’t need to acknowledge they agree with their children, there is no need to cut them off with disdain and hatred; there will always be room for more love.

  53. #79:
    the only one having any real issue with what I’ve contributed is you and I think its only because I didn’t think it was appropriate to make the issue about the GLBT community. Otherwise you wouldn’t have said anything to me. You wouldn’t be attacking me this way. That makes you a hypocrite.

    Wow…so you make up your own theory of my internal motivations, and that makes me a hypocrite, eh? Fascinating! I guess that’s the consequence if anyone (or at least anyone who happens to own a pair of testicles) dares to suggest that your personal challenges aren’t the sole topic of this discussion.

  54. Diane, you’re ranging into the realm of delusion now, with your bizarre claim that I spoke of “squeezing testicles.” While I disagree with your curious opinion that testicles are “gross,” I guarantee you don’t have what it takes to get anywhere near mine.

    You keep badgering me telling me that I think this is all about me.

    To the contrary, I keep pointing out that you’ve already implied that it’s all about you, over and over, ad nauseum.

    …you look more like bully at this point than a reasonable adult wishing to engage in what the issue really is.

    Ummm…and that’s because you get to decide “what the issue really is,” right? Even when Natasha spoke of so much more than just your pet issue?

    THIS IS AN ISSUE THAT IS NOT JUST AN GLBT ISSUE.

    THIS IS A HUMAN ISSUE.. HOW MUCH MORE CLEAR DO YOU NEED IT.

    Who ever said this was “JUST AN [SIC] GLBT ISSUE,” Diane?
    Is it really such a SHOUTING issue?

    THIS IS AN ISSUE WHICH IF A MEDICALLY BASED COULD HAVE BEEN EASILY AVOIDED.

    Actually, I’m getting that impression more strongly, with every additional comment you post.

  55. Manuel,Diane,Nick.I wish it was within my power to let each of you know that you are my brother and sister.That you are my son or my daughter.Please forgive me if I have let you down,I am a fool and have frequently allowed myself to be misled.But I would like to change,and hope you will be kind enough to give me an opportunity to do better.Where there is life there is hope,and I’m so glad that you have made it safe thus far in hazardous circumstances.Let me do better.I’m here,somewhere.

  56. Diane, your all caps screaming is not productive. If you read my original comment, you will see that it addressed far more than just statistics, thus disproving your claim that all the men in this discussion have only listed statistics. As for Natasha calling you out, Diane, she already did so—in the most kind, loving, generous way she knew how—by offering to speak with you privately, one-to-one.

    I am not your oppressor, Diane. If screaming at me in all caps helps you to release your anger, however, I freely give you that gift. May you find peace. May you find rest. May you find joy.

  57. If expressing your anger brings you greater happiness, Diane, then I’ve no intention of interfering with it. May you be free from suffering. May you find peace, love, and joy.

  58. I’m not quoting any poem, Diane. I’m simply making a choice, regarding my own state of heart and mind. At this point, the best and only thing I can do–whether for you, or for myself–is simply wish you well on your way. May you be free from suffering. May you find peace, love, and joy.

  59. Manuel I am not good enough to be a Mormon and nor to be fully accepted in the Mormon community all I can say is that you seem more than good enough for the places I’ve lived. I’m so sorry you’ve had the negative experiences you’ve had.

  60. Nick and Diane, I ask you to please refrain from comments directed at each other for a while. We welcome all voices until they degenerate into personal attacks. Let’s get back to the topic at hand and avoid the negativity toward each other.

  61. Manuel, thanks for sharing your story. I assume you that you’d be welcome in our ward.

    I think your comments for parents at the end of your comment are spot on. Embracing our children in love rather than expectations is a huge challenge for parents — not just LDS parents. How to show that love properly is something that many families deal with, I believe.

    I suspect that parents who struggle with this issue also feel a great deal of fear. Whether that fear is well founded is another matter, but parents fear the unknown and the uncontrollable just like others do. Many parents have arrived wherever they are in life on one path, and they hope their children will follow a similar path and find a similar happiness. When the children take a different road it is frightening to parents.

    As for “hating the sin and loving the sinner” I agree that message is a dangerous one; it may instill pride in the one who invokes it, and that pride is counter to all that the Savior taught.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  62. Reading through most of these the numbers don’t make sense nor do some comments. I guess comments have been deleted here?

    Manuel: it is clear to me that notwithstanding all these things, I am not good enough to be a Mormon and nor to be fully accepted in the Mormon community

    Culturally this is certainly the case in Utah and in many other english-speaking wards. However the point is or should be what our relationship is with the Spirit, the Lord and especially with God the Father. They aren’t Utahan nor American (Jesus was Israeli!). Going to church should be about renewing covenants and feeling the spirit which can be done even if you don’t speak to anyone else there. I don’t know if you can do that but I really hope you don’t miss out of any blessing because of the cold nature of most Utahans and like minded members.

    and how much more special their spirits were in the pre-existence over other spirits to deserve such honor. I obviously was one of the “other” spirits” Leaders like President Utchdorf and many seventies (including Kenya’s Sitati) disprove this theory that many Utahans seem to have. Note that Utchdorf, Apostles Scott, Bednar and seventy Sitati weren’t born in the covenant nor was president Hunter and many other general authorities, too many to list here.

  63. 70: Yes, comments have been deleted so I apologize if things don’t flow like they should.

    Manuel:
    Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m going to start doing interviews on Mormon Stories and I’d be interested in speaking to you. I think race is something we most definitely do not address often enough or appropriately enough within our LDS culture. If you’re interested please email me at natasha.parker@sbcglobal.net

    69: It’s a possibility. It’s hard to know when there is no note left behind.

  64. Thanks everyone for the comments.

    The part of my Mormon experience that I shared here is of course intended to answer the context of the original post (LDS expectations vs risk of suicide, etc); therefore, I pointed out a few of the things in my LDS experience that made me significantly depressed and affected my mental/emotional and in some cases physical well being.

    Like I said, I’ve never had severe depression nor been suicidal, but I believe strongly that someone with severe depression experiencing the things I experience would probably find him/herself at the edge of taking his/her life.

    My experience in the Church as a whole is of course comprised of a much wider array of experiences both good and bad, and I value them all, since they are part of the formation of my character. My self-esteem today is extremely high, therefore, I appreciate every aspect of my character and I have to recognize all those things that gave shape to it, including the negative things (whether related to the Church or not).

    Carlos,

    I understand what you say about “Culturally this is certainly the case in Utah…” and the “…nature of most Utahans and like minded members.” The thing is, I have come to the conclusion that this culture and these attitudes are the direct result of the teachings of the leaders of the Church. “Utahans” didn’t just make these things up, they embraced them from their leaders who in turn claimed to be prophets, seers and revelators and to be speaking on behalf of God. This is the direct result of specific LDS teachings that were constantly fed to the members through general conference speeches, devotionals, literature, lessons, and word of mouth teachings that all have their root in the General Authorities of the Church. The “cold nature” you talk about is reflected in those teachings, some of which came even from current Gas like Boyd K. Packer, who precedes Uchdorf and directly presides over both Scott and Bednar.

    While I am way over LDS teachings, I think it is unfair to make a divide between “Utah members” and “the Church.” Utah members are not crazy, they just have a hard time letting go of what they were told their whole lives was God talking to them. Can you blame them? Current GAs have not bothered to clear anything up, they just pile rhetoric upon rhetoric. The thing is, we don’t believe the words of old prophets is null, otherwise we would not have scriptures. Rather, we teach that what the prophets teach within the scope of their “prophetic calling” is scripture.

    As the Church grows and grows elsewhere, and as new members are not aware of the terrible things and terrible rhetoric once taught from LDS pulpits; it’s only logical that the reigning mentality of newer wards and newer generations differs significantly from those in older wards in Utah, nevertheless, this is the result of faulty doctrinal alignment and failure to properly address the terrible teachings in question, not the result of Utahans going rogue and crazy.

    Inundating the new audiences with nicer rhetoric in new speeches is OK, but it fails to address the poorer rhetoric once used and seemingly still embraced by those people who were raised on it, creating all sorts of hybrid doctrines, speculations and wild explanations as to why both rhetorics are still valid since the old one has never been dismissed.

    I am convinced that as long as the leaders belong to the privileged group of people that is not being affected by the passive aggressive negative vibe that prevails in Utah, meaning, as long as our white conservative leaders are in their comfortable celebrity-like pedestals, why should they care about how minorities feel about past teachings and how they still affect them? What do they care? In fact, it is probably convenient for them, since they keep demeaning us and destroying our sense of self, let’s not forget they are conservatives.

    On the other hand, addressing the questionable teachings brings the old problem of the reputation of their predecessors, the image of infallibility and the current PR efforts to the table, and well, who wants to deal with all that at the same time. Enough problems they have right now as the world things of the Mormons as crazy jerks and the GAs making a huge PR effort to change that perspective to “cool and hip.”

    As long as the white members are comfortable, as long as new minorities are kept in the dark about past teachings, as long as GAs don’t have to admit any mistakes made by themselves or their predecessors, as long as the Church doesn’t have to deal with more PR faux pas; who can possibly care about the spiritual well being of some concerned minorities? There is too much at risk.

    Most minorities think like you anyway: either they are not aware of the past teachings because they have only heard the more recent rhetoric, or if they have heard them, they create the usual divide between the “actual church” and “crazy Utah members.” The mistake is that “crazy Utah members” are the way they are because of the teachings of the Leaders, past and some still present, and those teachings conveniently never addressed nor dismissed.

    Therefore, while a Mormon, I found myself in that small group nobody gives a damn about.

    I am one of those concerned minorities: the teachings do hurt me, the members I interact with do keep past rhetoric alive and current in the most subtle, passive-aggressive, demoralizing ways: they make us feel alienated, they cause us to be depressed, to question our self worth, and in turn to question the validity of Sunday School lessons, General Authorities’ speeches, and we grow suspicious of the second thoughts of members about us (beyond those phony smiles), they put a strain between us and the God that they try to define, they hurt our spiritual well being, and they are an active obstacle in our progression.

    I know I form part of that group, but I also know it is a group and I am not alone and there are many who feel the same way and are affected the same ways I am.

    White conservative church leaders don’t care about people like us though, at least not enough to do anything about it anyway. Therefore, I no longer expect absolutely anything from LDS leaders regarding these things. They have their shady process of covering old rhetoric with new in hopes the old will be somehow forgotten so they don’t have to address it, and they seem to have made up their minds about it, and it seems like they are not going to change it for anyone or anything, much less for a concerned minority that they can easily point at and ostracize as “less faithful.”

    The system won’t change, the church won’t change. It has been hijacked. There are no shepherds nor spiritual food to feed certain sheep; they rather turn a blind eye dreaming those sheep don’t really exist or hoping those sheep will eventually go away, and that’s what we will do.

  65. This is a very interesting blog. I had a friend in high school who shot himself and I have family in the “SSA” club.

    From what I am reading it appears that the point should not be questioning the legitimacy of the numbers or whether the victims be LDS or non LDS, active or inactive. The point is that there is a real problem nationwide. States in the Bible Belt have similar issues with suicide.

    The question about suicide and the youth should “what are WE going to do about it”. If there is any competition between Mormons and Christians it should be who can fix this first. Now there are some real bragging rights!

    Due to the unique Mormon culture of following the leaders(whether that is good or bad is blog fodder for another time)the only way people will change their response to the youth take responsibility and stop offending is if it comes from the church leaders. The cultural dissonance that Manuel discusses is leftovers from the church reformation of 1857. It is just repeated by leaders until today.

    Thus far the church nor the priesthood are acting as solutions for this problem. Not because the church does not have the potential to change it (I believe they do) but because they do not want to focus on this area. An organization (in this case A CHURCH) who can put billions into a construction project while this takes place in their neighborhood may want to…..feel free to fill in any action that may help the situation, evaluate priorities, hire new managerial accounting staff, pray harder, etc. etc. etc.). Until the Church leaders take an active role and lead as they do in so many legal issues, the culture will remain the same and the suicides will stay high in Utah.

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