Depression, anxiety, and promises of healing

I’ve experienced depression and generalized anxiety for as long as I can remember. It comes and goes and sometimes I’m not really aware I’m experiencing it until the clouds start to lift and I suddenly realize the sun feels good on my skin again, surprised at the revelation that I hadn’t been feeling it for a while.

When I started elementary school I was also diagnosed with ADD (now more commonly called ADHD, although the diagnostic labels overall could use some improvement). With all good intentions my parents decided to hold off on getting me medication for those conditions. Until my thirteenth year or thereabouts when I started junior high school and the increased organizational load became unbearable.

My mom tells a story that I can’t recall happening. I’m arriving home from school. I’m frazzled. I’m being asked about homework—again, and I take a multi-subject folder out of my backpack. I accidentally drop it on the floor. A flock of papers from 7 classes (was it 7?) burst forth and scatter to the four winds. I break down in tears.

That was the moment she decided it was time for me to know about my diagnosis and to see if medication could help.

I remember feeling a vague thrill at the promise of feeling better, being better, but also a sense that this proved there was something wrong with me. Something that needed fixing that other kids didn’t need. I was broken, in a sense. I kept it a secret from my friends and pretty much everyone but my immediate family. And if I could have kept it secret from my siblings I would have.

At several points in my life I wanted to know if I had “aged out” of my ADHD symptoms. The brain undergoes significant development through our mid-twenties and some people don’t take medication in perpetuity. I wanted that. For one, the cost was a growing burden. It was also a pain to get prescriptions filled each month when I already had some issues with planning and focus. Side-effects include irritability, and “grooming” my hands, nail-biting, restlessness, and a possibly increased risk for heart issues. But each time I experimented to see how things went it became so quickly apparent how big a difference my comparatively low dose made for me. The same went for my antidepressant meds.

Medicine alone doesn’t cut it. I’ve done therapy off and on, I’ve worked hard to become tuned in and reliable and organized and good at what I do. Not everyone around me knows what’s up, or remembers all the time, or sees what things look like from my perspective, but I accept that. I choose to take medication because it helps me be the person I like to be. My master’s thesis research focused on intellectual disability in Latter-day Saint history and thought in part because I wanted to know more about myself.

This backstory explains why I took a recent article in the Church’s Liahona magazine personally. Author Jacob Hess identifies himself as a doctor of community psychology, a mindfulness teacher, and a writer. He has a PhD but I don’t know if he’s certified to practice. I recognize some good advice in the piece—Pay attention to what we do with our bodies, what we put in our bodies, how we care for our bodies. Pay attention to our thoughts, be more present with them. Don’t bury trauma. Seek connection with God and others. Try small, incremental changes and pay attention to what’s working.

Things go off track for me in a section called “Decrease dependence”:

“It’s natural for anyone facing depression or anxiety to rely on a variety of outside supports: from professional therapists and family or friends to medication and food. Some unfortunately turn to illegal substances and alcohol while trying to navigate painful emotions. While many sources of help can provide short-term benefits, people who find longer-term healing consistently speak of a decreasing dependence on external resources. The Church’s emotional resilience class is one resource that helps people develop that kind of growing freedom.

I can’t help but read this article through the lens of the stigmas I’ve dealt with for most of my life. I’ve chosen to pursue the “natural” course of seeking outside supports like professional therapists and medication. Hess includes these things alongside illegal substances and alcohol not necessarily because he thinks they’re morally wrong, but because he says they only provide “short-term benefits.” The word “natural” itself has a certain weight for Mormon readers: the natural person is an enemy to God, they are out of step, “natural” does not have to mean good. It can even mean bad.

According to the article, we can tell someone is reaching a state of “freedom” the less they need to depend on external things like medication, therapy, or less socially acceptable methods like drug and alcohol use. Otherwise, one is “dependent,” which is framed as a negative, they cannot discover “more lasting emotional healing.” Not relief. Not equilibrium. Not seasons of good. An endpoint of healing.

Hess directly objects to the idea that mental illness can be permanent. (What he defines as mental illness isn’t clear here, but can we include the huge array of psychologically and physiologically atypical conditions that cause friction with broader society as well as a sense of suffering by individuals?) He uses important new advances about brain plasticity to argue that “we know better” now. Citing a scripture invoked in a recent General Conference address he invites us to “Do whatever lies in your power and then ‘stand still … to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed’ [Doctrine and Covenants 123:17].” The implication is that the salvation of God is the cessation of mental illness in this life, the arm of God will be revealed in a miracle of healing. What if that’s not what God is promising everybody?

Elsewhere Hess has expressed vaccination skepticism regarding COVID-19. (I don’t want to direct traffic there.) Like others who encourage mindfulness as therapy (homeopathic therapists, alternative medicine practitioners, wellness promoters, life coaches, etc.), he calls attention to some failures by mainstream medicine and offers alternatives. I see some good reason for people to feel alienated by mainstream medicine. Things like impersonal and negative experiences, problems with how medical research is conducted, ongoing gaps in knowledge, an industrialized approach that does a poor job reckoning with autoimmune stuff. And it’s worth noting that Hess doesn’t go as far as some alternative voices—he at least expresses some approval of medicinal and therapeutic approaches. But he shares the same underlying posture of skepticism and positions such approaches as temporary modes of assistance at best (and possibly even hindrances to real healing at worst).

Which leaves me with this conclusion from his words: If a person takes medication or utilizes therapy over a long period of time (How long? Not clear.), they are doing things wrong. Their ongoing “dependence” is evidence of the system’s failures and their own gullibility at best, or their own culpability at worst. For Hess, true freedom is achieved when I move beyond those limited modes of assistance. But what about people experiencing chronic illness or long-term emotional/mental instability? He doesn’t bring them up here, which is an an ableist decision. (Showing prejudice or preference for neurotypical people while excluding marginalized people.)

Bringing people into his framework who utilize more long-term assistance (those with cyclical patterns of depression, mood disorders, various chronic psychiatric conditions) would complicate his outlined path toward lasting healing. His otherwise good advice becomes partial truth at best because he avoids talking about the real messiness and variety of human experience. The details.

I believe stigmas around mental health assistance currently outweigh any cultural over-reliance on particular interventions like therapy or medication.

I believe it’s a moral and ethical imperative for people working in mental health to be direct and open about the fact that we can do our best but there are no assurances, and the path will look different for different people, and healing will look different for different people. I’m open to a variety of approaches, even some outside the mainstream, with a humble recognition that it might not “fix” everything but that it’s worth trying to.

I believe sometimes mourning with those who mourn and comforting those in need of comfort doesn’t always require fixing the thing that makes them mourn or removing all the causes of their need for comfort. I believe sometimes it’s impossible to fully fix or remove such things. I feel called to mourn and comfort in spite of that.

I believe that identifying such a clear path anyone can take out of anxiety and depression is a lot like asserting that people dealing with anxiety and depression are largely to blame for their condition, either because we live in a way that causes those conditions or we reject a foolproof way out of them. They exhibit laziness, guilt, ignorance, stubbornness, or some combination of each. I want to be clear: Hess doesn’t explicitly assert that position. I think he might even reject that position. But I want him to understand that so many people who read his words already hold those beliefs and will feel newly justified in them or convicted by them because of a credible researcher’s short and otherwise well-meaning article.

I don’t speak for everyone dealing with anxiety and depression. I don’t deny that I can make choices that impact my anxiety and depression. I’m not a trained mental health specialist. But I also believe based on my own experience and the witness of many others that healing is a multitude of experiences. I want people to be very clear and honest about that. If you use medication, if you benefit from therapy, I stand with you and I’m grateful we have the opportunity, for as long as it helps, whether temporary or more long-term.


  1. BHodges says:

    I hope our curriculum folks can take note and be more careful in the future.

  2. Is this the same Jared Hess that is always defending the Church’s treatment of queer folks? Yikes, he has some (bad) hot takes.

    Some people will need to be on meds for their whole life. Saying someone shouldn’t be depending on ADHD or depression meds in many cases is like saying someone with astigmatism shouldn’t be depending on eyeglasses. What a bunch of harmful baloney – disappointed that this was published in the Liahona.

  3. BHodges says:

    *Jacob Hess, and yes I also disagree with him on LGBTQ issues as well. And yes, we don’t really expect people to pray and faith their way out of chronic heart conditions, although changes in diet and such can help, some people require ongoing medication.

    By the way, I believe the widely-held-seldom-articulated belief in a person’s moral culpability for illness plays a huge role in perpetuating America’s substandard individualized health care system.

  4. Blair, from things you’ve said and written in the past I’ve tagged you as a like mind on this subject. Thanks for this.

    Hess’ “people who find longer-term healing consistently speak of a decreasing dependence on external resources” is a factual assertion that does not square with my experience. Frankly, I don’t believe it. Is he talking about a study? Peer reviewed research? Anecdotal personal experience? It’s a strong statement and as you point out potentially damaging. I’d want a lot more backup before I would give it time or place.

  5. BHodges says:

    He’s created presentations based on research that claims anti-depressant use actually hinders positive mental health outcomes compared to people who don’t take it or who stop taking it early on. They’re available online. I didn’t carefully study the presentations, but I’ve seen him suggest he’s got more coming along those lines.

  6. I look forward to Blair’s angry rant about the Church’s self-reliance programs as well:

  7. I’ve many times tried to stop taking my anti-depressants because I’ve seen their continued use as a moral failing in myself. Every single time my suicidal ideation has increased along with my depression, anxiety, and trauma symptoms. So, thank you but no thank you to the idea that continued use of meds is something to be looked down upon. Otherwise I would be dead, and the world would indeed be a sadder place for it.

  8. I’m speechless about what Hess wrote about ‘dependence.’ I am dependent on eating food daily, I need more magnesium & vitamin D than I get by diet alone, and my body also feels not great without lifting weights and yoga. Is Hess suggesting that my dependence on these outside sources is keeping me from ‘freedom?’ (Whatever it is that he means by freedom.)

    Therapy and my low dose anti-anxiety medication are as important as food, vitamins, and exercise to my mental/emotional well being. Use of these doesn’t mean I’m not healed (whatever he means by that), it means I have a mortal body that requires food, vitamins, exercise, therapy, and medication to function well.

  9. Kristine says:

    It’s surprising to me that the Liahona editors chose to publish this. It runs pretty directly counter to better messages in General Conference over the last few years, from Elder Holland, Sister Aburto, and others

  10. Kristine’s comment caused me to go back and see the Hess piece is in the Liahona. I missed that on first reading because it was so “obvious” that an article taking a particular and controversial position regarding mental health could only show up in a non-church publication where it would be understood as one therapist’s opinion. Without a qualifier of some sort, running in the Liahona will be seen by too many as a statement of Church policy or teaching.

    So yes, surprising (I would say error) to run the piece without qualifying it as one man’s opinion.

  11. @blair right, did not intend to malign the napoleon dynamite guy!!!

    @christiankimball, I did a double take too – thought maybe this was posted in like meridian magazine or public square or whatever. I’m troubled that it’s in an official publication. (Candidly, I’m troubled they’d publish anything by Jacob – he’s unqualified to opine here.)

  12. Elizabeth says:

    I wonder if he considers his “online course, Mindweather, and the android/Iphone app Lift – both of which introduce mindfulness-oriented, research-based steps to pursue deeper healing from depression and anxiety.” as something one should reduce their “dependence” on? I hope so. His review of “over 100” people who self described themselves as healed seems a pretty small study. Anyone who teaches “mindfulness” gives me the hebe-jebees. The concept may be fine and good but anything tagged with a modern buzzword type name smacks of a scam to me, a scam he profits from. As mentioned above, Elder Holland and Sister Aburto did a much better job of addressing the problem. This guy is a type best ignored.

  13. BHodges, I really appreciate your decision to share your experiences and reaction here. I’m really glad you’ve found some things that work for you and hope you keep finding more :)

    Mental health therapists always want our clients to be empowered to the point that they can solve their own problems without therapy. The four main professional associations (for counselors, psychologists, family therapists and clinical social workers… different grad school programs with different histories that prepare you to do mostly the same kind of work) that therapists join explicitly state that clients’ independence and autonomy are fundamental guiding principles of everything we do.

    That said, we also always leave the door open when someone says they want to stop therapy, because progress towards independence doesn’t follow a straight line.

    And that is often completely separate from behavioral medical treatment. Research increasingly shows that for some problems (including ADHD and some forms of depression) long-term medication use with a skilled doctor’s oversight is the most effective of all the safe options.

    Bottom line, if therapy, medication or both work for you (generalized collective you), don’t stop them just because Hess says to.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for writing this, Blair. It’s expressed very well. I would add my thoughts here, which echo yours.

    In my family, we have three of us who have been treated for mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and ADD. That treatment has included medication and therapy. In my case, like you, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety as a teenager. I eventually got to the point where I no longer needed medication or therapy. At times, my anxiety has flared up in adulthood. While I’ve been able to manage so far, there may be a point where I need medication and/or therapy again.

    My wife’s parents were firmly in the camp of solving things yourself. So, she never sought professional help. In the last few years, however, she reached out to her doctor about her lifelong struggles with things. She was diagnosed with depression and ADD and is now being treated with medication and therapy. My daughter was also recently diagnosed with anxiety and depression after several difficult experiences in her younger years. She, too, is being treated with medication and counseling. According to their doctors and counselors, they will likely require medication for the rest of their lives.

    And you know what? That’s great: we’re each doing what works best for us and what each of us needs. Contrary to Mr. Hess’ article, my wife and daughter are not somehow more dependent simply because they use medication and/or counseling (nor am I more independent because I no longer take medication). The use of continued medication is required of many chronic conditions like mental illness.

    It would be absurd to imply, as Mr. Hess seemingly (and I hope unintentionally) does, that a diabetic or heart attack survivor is somehow inferior, to blame, or a “dependent” because they require insulin or heart/cholesterol medication to maintain their health or function. As my late mother once said in response to someone saying that people use antidepressants as “a crutch”: you don’t usually see people using a crutch just for the h*ll of it. They use a crutch because it’s necessary for them to function. Indeed, when you’re using a crutch (or taking medication to treat an illness), that’s a sign of strength and desire to overcome a difficulty, not a sign of weakness.

    I’ve seen my wife and daughter grapple with their conditions both with and without medications. I can unquestionably say that they have more freedom and independence—dramatically more—because they are getting the treatment they need for their conditions. My wife is doing better personally, spiritually, and professionally because of it. My daughter is happier, more social, more productive, and achieving far better things than she was able to without medication. And in my case, taking medication and going to therapy were what freed me from debilitating anxiety that destroyed me academically, socially, and countless other ways. And it’s enabled all three of us to serve more diligently in church callings and help other people than we could without medications. If it were necessary for me to go back on the medication in the future, I would not consider it a failure or a sign of increased dependency on my part; rather it would be a valuable tool that would enable me to overcome very real struggles that I’ve faced for much of my life.

    And that’s the thing: things like depression, anxiety, and ADD are often (if not usually) chronic, lifelong struggles that people will need treatment–including medication and/or therapy–for throughout their life. So, the best question to ask isn’t whether these people should become “independent” of those treatments. Rather, the question is whether the person is receiving the appropriate treatment at each stage of their lives–thereby allowing them to function, pursue their dreams, and avoid the devastating effects that accompany mental illness. If that means they take medication for their whole life, they should be celebrated for getting the help they need rather than being criticized as being too dependent on so-called worldly things.

  15. anonforthis says:

    One more twist on dependency. I suffer from anxiety. After a lot of work it’s manageable. In the course of that work I learned that clonazepam works for me. It works well enough that just knowing it’s available if needed will stop most episodes from spinning out of control. I have pills in the medicine cabinet. Knowing they’re available is important, even though I haven’t taken one in years now. Is that dependence?

  16. SoG: what about my post can fairly be characterized as angry ranting? I felt angry about the article, but I don’t think anger itself is intrinsically wrong. But ranting? I’m not familiar with the church’s program but I imagine there are things I’d like and things I wouldn’t like about it.

    EOR I love you and am thankful for your friendship and for everything you’ve taught me, and for caring about me.

    Tina, amem.

    Kristine, I agree. Especially since Hess is much more anti medical establishment than the church’s current official stances are.

    ChristianK: agreed. There was no disclaimer.

    Elizabeth: I’m open to a variety of therapeutic modalities, including mindfulness and meditation, but I don’t think the latter are safely assumed to be common replacements the way Hess does.

    EM and Anonymous and anonforthis: thank you and amen.

  17. After reading the article, it all seems like Life Coaching 101 to me. And I say that as someone who likes the teachings of Life Coaches (if not the MLM aspects). The article really does have a lot of good suggestions and practices that I personally have incorporated into my life for the better. However, it needs a warning on the top of the article that these suggestions are not meant to take the place of a licensed mental health professional and/or a medical course of treatment. Life coaching has it’s place but it isn’t interchangeable with doctors.

    That and bullet point seven just needs to go. It’s so vague that it comes off just as BH took it: True healing happens when you let go of external resources such as therapists and medications. And that kinda ruins all the good in the article. (Plus, sunshine, connecting with friends, exercise, etc., are all external resources as well, aren’t they? The only thing I can think of that isn’t an external resource is prayer and meditation…)

  18. additional anon says:

    In my experience (1.5 decades of therapy, about half that time on medications, with a dx similar to the OP’s marbling of anxiety/depression/attention) the ability to engage in the depression mitigation strategies of bullet points 1-6 often *relies upon* on the sense of confidence and support generated by professional help (point 7). It’s not “graduate from point 7 so that you can virtuously lean on points 1-6” so much as it is “prove all things, hold fast that which is good and doable from any/all of the above simultaneously”.

    My mileage varies, I know, so I am as thrilled about the fact that many people can achieve emotional equilibrium after shorter terms of professional help as I am unapologetic (in church settings and elsewhere) about my years of background support from Dr. Snuffleupagus. If Dr. S or his peers need not be enlisted ‘til *your* conflict is o’er, that’s great. As for me in my (mental) house, I still need him.

  19. Thanks for this, Blair.

    SoG, that’s odd to treat an article published in a church magazine as the equivalent of a church program, fwiw, I already wrote the kind of post you’re trollingly that Blair write (minus, of course, the angry and the rant).

  20. Anthony says:

    Human beings survive in Relation to the world around them. We need other beings, human kin, spirit, pills, therapy, sunlight, food, water, sex, recreation, purpose, work, belonging, clean water, songs, dances, fire, good talks with loving friends. It’s all an internal-external-relational Dance. I live through my depression/anxiety by engaging with ALL of those aspects of life at different times.

  21. Mortimer says:

    The Q15 evidently felt exasperated by the number of saints (even in the jello belt) who pushed back against masking and vaccines at church, in schools and public spaces, despite the brethren’s encouragement and example.But the powers in SL continue to give credence to, and in this case- publish, alternative, non-proven, non-licensed persons whose conclusions are unsubstantiated and who undermine legitimate health guidelines and evidence. Maybe the brethren need to review the law of the harvest (you reap what you sow).

    Why publish something that echos of Tom Cruz’s Rx rant? Why choose to pick strange fights with the credible and established psychological/psychiatric fields? And yes, this is a pattern. Ask Natasha Helfer (Parker) why she was excommunicated. See why hundreds of LDS and non-LDS licensed psychiatric professionals and scholars signed a letter explaining current practice and Helfer’s professionalism and ethics in adhering to best practice with cultural/religious sensitivity? For months on end this embarrassing and petty fight between an established professional health care field and the church was highlighted in national news. And now you can bet this new article is going to shine another spotlight on us. Meanwhile, MLM cure-all potions and miraculous essential oils boom in our culture.

    When I facepalm trying to figure out why the church would invest so much time, money, energy fighting an ally and established evidence, I think of the battles we are NEGLECTING in lieu of this drivel. Aren’t we supposed to be bringing about peace (ending wars and conflicts), eradicating poverty, ending sickness and disease, serving the widows, children, the ostracized and forgotten, stewarding the earth (that is in environmental crisis), and rescuing those suffering from natural disasters? Don’t we have enough to do right now in helping refugees and victims from Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Congo, the poor in the U.S. and at the border, rescuing people in the Yellowstone floods, upholding democracy (there’s some pretty big stuff happening in DC right now, despite our mores against any political discussion) etc.? Every time we engage in the petty culture wars, we lose sight of our real mission and duty.

  22. As the father of a son with an extreme form of schizophrenia/depression/anxiety, I have more questions than answers. But going off medication is probably the worst thing a seriously mentally ill person can do. And for the record, I have never heard of a case where a priesthood blessing has cured a serious mental illness. I’ve wondered why, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. If anyone out there has ever heard of a priesthood blessing curing a serious mental illness, I would like to hear about it.

  23. Yay Blair. This is Morg’s mom. We do depression in our family and my long term use of Prozac, Pamelor, and (for the last many years) Zoloft is pretty darn important to me. I refuse to feel guilty for having a less than completely adequate brain. Feeling decent is better than everyone’s approval.
    Your fan, Anita Davis.

  24. Our ideas about moral strength need to catch up with the realities of what medical science does for us.

    We don’t appreciate enough just how radically medical science has changed the medical profile of the population. Because of our ability to treat critical infant illness and childhood disease, many millions (billions?) of people are alive today who in earlier times would have died in infancy or childhood. Because of our ability to treat chronic disease throughout a lifetime, adult life expectancy has increased, and our medical quality of life has vastly improved. Mental health issues are part of the improvement made possible by medical advances.

    What this means is that sick people are thriving with a quality of life that has never been possible before. We remain sick in ways that would not have been survivable in earlier times, yet because of medical treatment we are also happier and healthier than people with our conditions have ever been. I count myself in this group because I nearly died at birth and because I have a common, lifelong, chronic medical condition that would cripple or kill me if not for medication.

    While our expectation about quality of life has rightly changed because of medical advances, some of our moral ideas about health have not changed at the same rate. One way to cope with the devastation of death is to admire the physical strength of survivors as if it were also moral strength. A corollary of that reasoning is that physically weak people are also, in some way, morally weak. Hence, the ability to become independently, physically strong is a sign of moral strength. These ideas are wrong, but they have very ancient roots.

    I think that for many medical conditions we have come a long way toward eliminating this confusion between physical and moral strength. However, in the area of mental health it is still a problem. It is especially insidious in a community where so many of us depend on medical resources to maintain our mental health, even as we continue to talk about self-reliance and emotional resilience as markers of moral strength. That dissonance is not healthy.

    It is true that improved mental health can create a satisfying experience of freedom and independence. We need to encourage ways of talking about that emotional liberation without stigmatizing the means of achieving it. Experts should not talk about treatment of mental health as if it is grounded in moral character.

  25. Go to the Church Library app and search “depression.” When I do it, the Hess article is the first hit.

    In overnight reflection, I remind myself there is an LDS undercurrent that holds God only makes cisgender straight mentally and physically sound people and every exception is a human failing or error—the God would never argument. A moment’s reality check says it cannot be, but also that there are way too many of us hating ourselves, our minds and our bodies, to think we didn’t get the message. I’d like anyone writing an article like Jacob Hess’ article to position themselves with respect to the God would never argument. Then I would know before reading the first sentence that I’d be happier setting it aside. To be clear, I don’t know Jacob Hess in this way; I am not making an accusation about a particular writer or particular article. More of a general concern. I do know that the good advice in Hess’ article is quite common and I could be happy finding it elsewhere.

  26. This article is just one of the reasons I don’t read Liahona. This drivel leaks into Relief Society, Priesthood, and sacrament talks as policy, bordering on doctrine.

  27. How many of you have taken the time to give feedback on the Liahona website where this is posted? There’s a danger, I suppose, of being dismissed as a sort of a mob egged on by Blair’s well thought out post, but we might maybe barely possibly could do some good with feedback, especially if you’re brave enough to leave a valid email address.

    And if Liahona staff reads this, please note that my own feedback was posted there before this BCC post.

    On the other hand, based on earlier feedback, I have very low confidence that anyone but a PR firm actually sees feedback.

  28. I was taught that anti depression meds were addictive and a sign of laziness. I believed that until my wife was diagnosed with post partum depression and I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Meds and therapy saved our marriage and possibly our lives.

    The comment about “natural” is insightful – Mormons are raised thinking the natural man is bad. I still grapple with that extremely toxic paradigm. The teaching should be “the natural man is … normal and good and enough.” We shouldn’t apologize for having needs and desires.

    Also, I don’t remember the last time I read the Liahona. Years. It will be many more years.

  29. Susan W H says:

    Thanks for sharing. My husband was diagnosed with ADHD at age 55 and went on meds. My son who was in his late 20s then also realized he had it. It made a huge difference in their lives and their careers. Husband is still on it, still working as he nears age 80. The meds cause him to have some anxiety, but guess what? He’s got normal anxiety for the world we live in. He still talks to a therapist once a week–it’s a great help for him. And for me!

  30. BHodges says:

    ReTx: Yes, at minimum the article needs a disclaimer that the article is not intended to replace professional mental health services. And great point, the writer’s other suggestions include “dependency on” (or should we say connection with?) “external” things.

    additional anon: Thank you, and great point. Having the will to do many of his suggestions can sometimes require medication or other professional services.

    Sam: Amen to your angry rant (ha) about the limits of self-reliance as a virtue.

    Anthony: amen to the dance. I think when it comes down to it “self-reliance” is a fiction because the self is produced in relation to others, because life itself is interconnectedness, because reliance, even the very breath we breathe, is given to us and inseparable from reliance. That doesn’t mean I deny individual human agency, but that I see agency itself as already constrained by and made possible by “external” circumstances. We can’t NOT depend.

    Mortimer: good point about the credence we see being lent to voices and stances that undermine professionalism (ie an imperfect system of specialization, experimentation, testing, proving, experimenting, with an eye toward replicability). I think we as a church could spend our money, time, and efforts in different ways that don’t pick cultural fights in ways that almost always align with current conservative political stances.

    Tom: Thanks, I have never heard of such a thing in my lifetime either.

    Anita Davis: thank you for that!

    Loursat: Well-said, thank you. I hope people are reading through the comments because there’s some great stuff in here.

    christiankimball: That would be a handy thing for people to disclose at the outset, haha. God would never. Would God ever?

    Ardis: I sent concerns through someone I know and trust at the COB, and I appreciate your reminder that people can register concerns directly through the feedback link on the website, even if it feels futile. Thank you.

    Toad: I’ve also seen anti-depressant usage in Utah invoked as evidence that the church makes people miserable, which is an interesting and stigmatizing accusation. And yes, “natural” can mean several things in our discourse and I don’t think the author was using it incidentally. Nothing in his article speaks approvingly of medication or professional therapy. He just says it’s natural to try those things and they might help in the short-term but there’s a superior way. In other words, he carefully avoids directly suggesting that anyone make use of such interventions.

  31. BHodges says:

    Susan W: Wow, that’s so interesting to hear about a later in life diagnosis like that!

  32. FWIW, Jacob Hess wrote a response to your article over at PSQ. I haven’t read it through yet, just pointing it out. (And hey, enjoying this new dialogue between BCC and PSQ.)

  33. BHodges says:

    Thanks Bryan. I wrote a response and posted it on their website.

  34. I tried for years to pray the gay away.
    the thing might not be the same
    some of it is parallel
    I’m still living and happy today
    A trans-lesbian on pretty pill meds
    helped more by science than by prayer
    not temple worthy, but alive
    glad I’m here to stay,
    Oh well.

  35. Thank you for sharing your story and for all the comments.
    Another trend I’ve noticed in the mindset of people who avoid “dependence” on medicine and therapy (myself included for far too many years) is a kind of perfectionism that becomes all consuming, sometimes leading to additional mental health issues or at least obscuring obvious solutions. The insistence that there must be a natural solution and that one is morally superior if she searches out that solution is particularly damaging for people with OCD, scrupulosity, and anxiety. It is especially harmful when coupled with the idea that throwing all of one’s time and energy into something is a demonstration of faith. For too long I thought that if I was just more like the woman with an issue of blood and I spent all my energy focused on healing, then Christ would see my faith and heal me.

    Thankfully I eventually learned that good enough is good enough.
    I can either takes meds and move on with my life, grateful that they give me the opportunity to work and enjoy time planning activities with my family and serving in the church or I can spend all my energy searching for better ways to not be depressed and anxious, pleading with God to somehow sanctify my efforts and heal me.
    I’m grateful that God accepts my “dependence” on medicine and is pleased that I’m focusing my energy elsewhere. Not surprisingly, it has done wonders for my mental health.

  36. anon for now says:

    Are you able to post a link or otherwise help me figure out where to find your response? I cannot find your response on their website. I understand not wanting to drive traffic to their site, so if you have another way of helping me to find your response that would be helpful.

    I appreciate your work on this issue. It is an uphill battle–thank you for your part in working to overturn old stigmas that are so harmful.

  37. Old woman says:

    Blair’s response was posted under comments under Jason Hess’ article. I read it cursorily, but when I went back to give it a closer reading it was gone. It appears to have been deleted. So very frustrating. I wanted to give this more thought. I don’t know what exactly happened, but my experience with the highly active LDS members of my ward is that when you express a difference of opinion, they turn around and walk away. There is no room for dialog in that culture. Very sad.

  38. I read Jacob Hess’ reply at PSQ, and Blair’s response which is now gone. I’m not convinced PSQ is the place for discussion so I’ll drop a few of my thoughts here.

    The reply at PSQ signals that the discussion at core is about developments under the general label neuroplasticity. I’ve been following this work (at a very casual non-expert level, not cutting edge, not the newest and greatest but with a significant lag) and I find it interesting and promising. Note that in my opinion a good write-up on neuroplasticity should also discuss micro-dosing and meditation–two topics that might not be acceptable for an article in the Liahona.

    The reply at PSQ is measured and qualified in a way that I hoped to see in the Liahona article. My concern about the Liahona piece is that what I think was intended as sharing good news, some reason for hope for some, and a bit of advocacy, comes across as an authoritative statement. That’s further complicated by the fact that when I search “depression” on the LDS Library App, “New Hope for Deeper Healing from Depression and Anxiety” comes up as the first hit, giving the impression it is the last word from the Church on the subject.

    What’s still not clear to me is whether the Liahona piece was intended as “exciting things are happening” or as “we’ve got a cure.” I don’t read it as reporting on a major new development–a popularizing science piece–because in that case I would expect to see references to peer-reviewed studies. After reading the PSQ response I think the whole is intended as an exciting things are happening piece, but without qualifiers a reader could get the impression that neuroplasticity is all figured out, in the we’ve got a cure direction.

    There’s an underlying debate about hope. A positive attitude and hope for success can be self-fulfilling in some cases. But a dashed hope, a false hope, can be damaging. I don’t know the answer. I do think it’s a fascinating and important question. How do you balance the benefits of a positive attitude against the damage of disappointment? I don’t think religious principles or teachings answer the question. There’s as much fear-based teaching as bright hope for the future teaching, and I think people choose the religious teaching to fit their preconceptions about mental health.

  39. PassTheChips says:

    I’ve taken the Emotional Self Reliance class (one of the worst names for a class ever). It’s cognitive behavioral therapy 101 with a pray to Jesus wrapper. The way the manual is written is that one should do CBT, pray, and then everything will work out.

    Also, not enough emphasis on working with a licensed therapist. We had people in my stake who own life coaching businesses using the class to promote their life coaching businesses. Thankfully the SP, HC, and Bishop quickly put an end to it.

  40. I read BHodges response on PSquare last night, but when others pointed out that it was gone I went to see for myself. It is in fact gone. I find it interesting (depressing? typical?) that at the bottom of Hess’s PSquare piece there’s a link to the rules for commenting that include, “Listen Well” and “Sharing the Floor.” Unwritten in the engagement rules is clearly, “Silence your critics” and “Hide dissenting voices”

  41. The PS people emailed me to explain that an overzealous moderator deleted the comment and they can’t restore it under my own name, but they sent me the text and invited me to repost it which I’ll do when I’m at a computer rather than using a phone.

  42. Why all the concern about deleting comments on a blog when this blog is not afraid to delete comments that it doesn’t agree with. Or maybe that is the point here, to grow and strengthen an echo chamber.

  43. “All deleted comments were created equal.”

    -somebody someplace

  44. Here’s my long response to the PSQ piece, with quotes from that piece in italics. It’s long so I’ll post in 2 comments:

    Thanks for this response, including some words about my blog post (which can be found at By Common Consent under the title “Depression, anxiety, and promises of healing” posted on June 16). Some thoughts in response:

    For years, my sister-in-law had suffered from acute symptoms of depression and anxiety— convinced, like so many others, that this was happening due to biological deficiencies that were both permanent and wholly outside her control.
    The possibility of alleviating depression and anxiety through professional therapy and/or medication would suggest some control in that a person can choose to try these interventions.
    hopeful messages can often feel not so hopeful (and even threatening) to some, perhaps especially those who are grappling with more profound and enduring emotional challenges.

    I think this kind of nuance would have measurably improved the Liahona piece. In my experience, people who are dealing with more profound and enduring mental and emotional challenges are often left out of the conversation. Even if you don’t want to include them as a core part of your audience in any articular piece of writing I think it’s crucial to at least mention them.

    That frightening intensity of serious mental illness is what everyone understands.

    That’s a moving account you included here, but I don’t think everyone understands it, even when they read it. I believe people who haven’t experienced such depths can only imaginatively approximate the experience, which is a good start, an important effort of empathy, but we’ve got to stay humble about it.

    “The diagnosis I was given … the doctors all through had all said that this was something that was chronic, it was something that was debilitating. It was something that as I got older, it would get worse.”

    I understand why that can be entirely deflating. But are there any conditions that can be expected to worsen over time? Are there people who would follow your prescribed regimen and not become “healed”? Or are you suggesting you really have found the foolproof universal method? I don’t see caveats in your article that suggest otherwise. What about people who say: “I was told this would go away if I prayed about it, served a mission, kept the word of wisdom, changed my diet, etc.”? I know people who’ve been assured of healing, did everything they could do, and didn’t find the promised relief. It was devastating. I know some who have died by suicide because promised relief didn’t come. I know people who blamed themselves because they were told there’s a sure path and they didn’t make it happen. How can we include their stories too?

    You quote a specialist who says “Our physical brain alone does not shape our destiny.” A key word here is “alone,” and yes of course! I think we agree that it isn’t either/or, but I also don’t want to over-promise on new possible developments in ways that stigmatize current best practices.

    Another specialist you quote:

    “The brain is … a talented learning machine. Nothing is completely fixed. Biology powerfully affects but does not lock in our reality.”

    Let’s consider a person who experiences a debilitating stroke. They can no longer use the left side of their body. Physical therapy brings some ability back, but they are still differently abled than before. Is the talented learning machine just not doing it right? (Note that this example doesn’t undercut belief in neuroplasticity in general, but suggests there are limits to consider.)

    One specialist is quoted as saying “I don’t know how solvable the problem really is.” I actually really appreciate the humility of this one. Especially if that person went on to add something like this: “Here are some things we can try. Here’s what works for some, here’s where it hasn’t worked. How do you feel about these options?” (We should also note that financial incentives tend to push doctors away from this kind of care because it can be time and labor intensive. That’s a whole other discussion, but it’s important.)

    Overall I think your list of things medical professionals say seems like incomplete caricature. If health care providers are always leaving it at “Well, you’re screwed” and not suggesting any treatment, and the person lacks other social supports, resignation is an understandable outcome.

    I liked how you add this point which wasn’t in the Liahona piece. It would have been a big improvement:

    In fairness, for many people—young and old—it can be deeply relieving to simply have a name for the pain they have, to understand biological contributors to these feelings, and to move into a place of acceptance.

    I realize space is limited there, but I think this kind of acknowledgement is crucial.

    “In the 21st century, therapeutic lifestyles may need to be a central focus of mental, medical, and public health” –Dr. Roger Walsh, UC-Irvine

    Amen and amen! And I don’t think we can talk about lifestyles without also talking about cultural obstacles to change; capitalism, wealth inequality, environmental degradation, all kinds of systemic factors that I would expect to hear more about from a person who studied community psychology.

    I’ve been heartened by how many times a single adjustment of a single area of our lifestyle is shown to make an incremental but measurable difference in mood.

    It must be especially gratifying. Sometimes the single adjustment could be seeing a therapist. Or taking a prescribed medication. Sometimes it could be a change to diet or sleep habits. (My own therapist spoke with me about all of these things.)
    In your response you refer to me as a “critic” in the negative sense of being a complainer, definitely not a positive identifier. You focused mainly on my criticism of things you’ve written about COVID and vaccinations, which was a peripheral point in my overall critique. Your response isn’t exactly clear here, but it seems like you think I am opposed to many of your suggestions including diet, sleep, exercise, mindfulness, and fostering hope. Those who read my response will see that I wrote positively about some of your information. This wasn’t an unfair misrepresentation or wholesale dismissal, I objected to the appearance of making sure promises in the name of fostering hope. I objected to leaving more chronic conditions out of the discussion, overlooking structural obstacles to your methods, and especially depicting medication and professional therapy as inferior, and even problematic, interventions. You’ve added a few clarifications in your response here that speak to some of those objections, but the bulk of your response is about presenting selected data points to reinforce your original purpose of highlighting alternative therapies that are said to be superior to other mainstream interventions.

    Originally you had said “Most of the mental health education available to families in recent decades has not focused on any of this—not neuroplasticity, not therapeutic lifestyle change, not mindfulness, and certainly not on the possibility of deeper healing.”

    How are we tracking this? I’m no specialist but I’ve heard of these developments. I’ve implemented some. In fact, taking medications enabled me to get there. Of the 20 or so parenting books I’ve read over the past few years all of them talked about such things.

    No doubt, a good counselor can do miracles.

    Your Liahona piece didn’t speak positively about professional therapists or medication. It said that naturally some people try those things and some even experience short-term relief, which you negatively contrast with the long-term relief you promise through your proposed methods. (Again, this leaves out particular chronic or degenerative conditions.)

    Re: your stats about mental health services and the rise of mental health issues. I believe genetics, environmental issues, the rise of social media, living in a more constant state of stress and alertness, and all kinds of other factors contribute to today’s mental health issues. But also the likelihood of getting diagnosed at all has increased. As more people understand and think about mental health we can expect a rise in diagnoses. That doesn’t necessarily mean people are more depressed now than ever. We don’t really know that. But you and I agree that it helps to think about the context, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and continue to seek better ways to help and be helped.

  45. Cont.

    None of the foregoing is anti-medicine or anti-doctor since there can be an important place for medical support in this picture.

    But your cited sources are much more explicit in criticism of pharmaceuticals in particular than you are in your Liahona article. You seem to believe the pharmaceutical industry is a huge problem and that people should not try medication for mental health issues. If that’s true, why not say it directly instead of implying it? It’s already implied there, which is a danger because if people read your article and stop taking prescribed medication they will likely be at a heightened risk for suicidality. Stopping prescriptions often requires oversight by professionals.

    So you say there’s an important place, but if you would explain what that important place looks like it would be helpful, because the data you shared suggests professional services as currently constituted exacerbate mental health issues. I’d like you to be more specific about correlation/causation here.

    a message of deeper hope—yes, going well beyond what any professional treatment might offer on its own —is our urgent need.

    I believe a message of deeper hope that doesn’t pay off can be disastrous. What about the people who say they were given promises of hope only to see them dashed? The promisers have a ready out: blame the people for failing to do enough. And in my experience that’s usually what happens. I would like to offer hope, while also being clear-eyed, honest, realistic, and humble. What is hope without humility?

    None of this is to deny their lived reality—or the possibility of difficult emotional burdens continuing on for many years.

    Yes, and your Liahona piece implicitly denies their lived realities by not mentioning them at all. That’s what originally bothered me about it so much. So many people are denied a place there.

    I’ll never forget how my own dear sister-in-law had to ultimately give up hoping for any healing in this life in order to keep her focus on surviving in the present. I pray we will never forget our central responsibility to minister to the needs of those hurting the most among us…Depression and anxiety are more formidable foes than that—and we shouldn’t pretend our favorite intervention has such distinctive power

    Here is the sort of crucial caveat I called for my response to your piece.

    it would be a mistake, however, of generalizing from individual cases of lasting suffering to draw conclusions about everyone else.

    I agree, and I believe it would also be a mistake to generalize from individual cases of healing to draw conclusions about everyone else. Even if your prescribed path to healing works for more people overall, I would still want to attend to the margins, the people who it doesn’t work for.

    If we have to err on one side, however, my vote is to err on the side of hope.

    I believe it’s a false choice. The kind of hope I would want to foster includes honesty, humility, and ongoing efforts to improve the social systems around the person that are obstacles to well-being.
    In response to your anecdotes from healed people we’ll need to hear from people who have different experiences. Here’s one response to Ilardi’s work: “I have not found these nostrums to be helpful when clinically depressed. I have tried a number of them, and the only thing that worked for me was ECT and Effexor XR.”

    “This view that if one becomes mentally ill, one will always be sick not only interferes with emotional recovery but also prevents one from identifying as a contributing member of society, striving to return to work, or establishing long-term relationships, which are essential aspects of recovery.”

    Just as bad: the assertion that there’s a foolproof method out of mental illness. Also notice how this bases a person’s worthiness and worthwhileness on being a “contributing member of society,” working. Again there’s a critique of systems of power and wealth here that deserves recognition.

    “Over and over again, we heard [in our interviews with distressed individuals], ‘I needed someone to believe in me.”

    More often I hear people say “My friends tell me to just get over it.” Hope can transmogrify into judgment so easily. It is crucial to make that point. I would need to know more about your 100 people research, but I’m skeptical about small-scale crowd-sourcing with potential subjects who may be predisposed to agree with a researcher’s theories.

    Does that sound at all resonant with the mighty and earth-shattering message of the gospel of Jesus Christ? A doctrine that encourages us to reach for mighty changes, spiritual rebirths, and miraculous healings?

    This gets into prosperity gospel territory for me. The idea that by following the gospel one will merit health and/or wealth. The gospel as I understand it includes suffering and pain and death as common life experiences, and that we should work to minister to alleviate those things but that promising particular temporal outcomes can be unwise and can even perpetuate inequalities and harm. Mortality offers few one-size-fits-all guarantees in my view.

    To reiterate: I am not as you depict your doctors here, offering nothing but doom and gloom and constricted options. I am not anti-hope. I am anti-overpromising. I am anti overlooking marginal or more chronic situations. I am not against many of the therapeutic interventions you discuss in your article, but I am more open to the valuable role that professional therapy and medication can play.

    Note: PSQ informed me that my original response was deleted by a moderator whose decision was over-ridden by other moderators. They could not restore my comment as it was under my name so they sent me the text and invited me to re-post. This comment is an updated version of that original comment for clarity’s sake.

  46. pconnornc says:

    I don’t mean to be heretical, but I read all the comments and then I read the article. I am 100% of an understanding of many who benefit from lifetime counseling, medication and other helps, but the article doesn’t say “eliminate” or “everybody” – it talks of people “consistently” (not exclusively) reporting “decreasing dependence”.

    I think one of the obstacles in providing messaging to 16mil people is what is good for the majority or a great general rule, also has examples of where it does not apply. The letter of the law vs the spirit of the law if you will.

    How do we talk about the temporal or spiritual benefits that apply to the many without offending the few (who are precious lambs)? And how do we receive messaging with a charitable tone, accepting the general truths, while acknowledging the important exceptions?

  47. Loursat says:

    pconnornc, my view is that we need to give up the idea that decreasing dependence on therapeutic intervention is an inherently superior outcome. When decreasing dependence is possible, that’s fine. But when it’s not possible, that’s fine too. When we’re dealing with any medical condition, what matters is the best possible improvement both in the short term and the long term. If that requires long-term intervention, or even permanent intervention, then so be it. We’ve managed to learn this attitude in treating conditions like diabetes, arthritis, asthma and any number of other diseases that are treatable but not curable. We ought to learn the same attitude about mental health interventions.

    The failure to acknowledge this aspect of treatment with respect to mental health really matters because the moral stigma of mental health disease is still a big problem. It goes without saying that lifelong medication for arthritis does not reflect poorly on the patient’s character, but that’s not true when we’re talking about mental health. It’s a fail when experts in a discussion like this just ignore the people who do not achieve decreasing dependence on treatment. We should stop thinking of these outcomes as the “exceptions.”

  48. Not a Cougar says:

    My apologies if I missed this in one of the comments above, but I’m reading into this an exasperation from Church leaders with the continued increase in expressed mental health issues from the membership at large and mission-age members specifically. I suspect many of these leaders bemoan the “fact” that people are “too brittle” today compared to the past and seek a diagnosis to provide “an excuse” for not shouldering their share of the work of the kingdom.

    Now, for all I know, they may be right that a greater percentage of people (in the United States in particular) suffer from mental health issues of all sorts, but I suspect the real answer is that mental health services are now available to a much larger swath of the population than ever before and there are far more treatments available for a wider range of issues. In other words, it’s not that people in the past didn’t suffer from mental illness, it’s simply that the state of the medical arts had yet to reach a point where it could provide solutions. People today can get effective treatment while in past decades and centuries they might have had to suffer silently, resort to self-medicating with alcohol or other substances (I wonder how many of the apostles who mentioned a parent using alcohol were unwitting witness to self-medicating behavior), or, in extreme cases, been institutionalized (a practice that as I understand has largely disappeared in the United States since the Reagan administration cut funding).

    Whatever the truth of the matter, I don’t think that an article in the Liahona (which in my anecdotal experience even most active members don’t read) is going to prove much of force to push back against the continued trend of members seeking mental health treatment.

  49. Kristine says:

    I suspect that Church leaders’ frustration comes largely from increasing numbers of missionaries seeking treatment and leaving their missions. But Church leaders should think about fixing the missionary program rather than the missionaries–missions have always caused a lot of distress for missionaries; they just didn’t have a way to make that distress public before now. And I think that, happily, the rising generation is less willing to participate in abusive systems out of a sense of duty than earlier generations were. Training mission presidents to recognize abusive companions, insisting on the importance of reasonable sleep, recreation, and social connection, and removing the stigma of psychiatric medications would help a lot more than nebulous guilt trips, even if they use terms like “mindfulness” instead of just suggesting more prayer and patience.

  50. BHodges says:

    Hey pconnernc. Thanks for the comment.

    but the article doesn’t say “eliminate” or “everybody” – it talks of people “consistently” (not exclusively) reporting “decreasing dependence”.

    Note again the section on decreasing dependence. “While many sources of help can provide short-term benefits, people who find longer-term healing consistently speak of a decreasing dependence on external resources.”

    The author is hedging from the beginning by saying certain sources “can” rather than “do” help, but even then the help is restricted to “short-term benefits.” This is contrasted with “long-term healing” by other methods, attested “consistently” by people who use other methods. We should pay as much attention to what isn’t said: chronic conditions aren’t directly addressed, which connects with the easy (and I would argue likely) assumption that this approach is being recommended to everyone.

    I think one of the obstacles in providing messaging to 16mil people is what is good for the majority or a great general rule, also has examples of where it does not apply. The letter of the law vs the spirit of the law if you will.

    Given the size of the audience it’s better to assume that enough readers experience chronic conditions to merit at least a paragraph. The author should specify the scope.

    How do we talk about the temporal or spiritual benefits that apply to the many without offending the few (who are precious lambs)? And how do we receive messaging with a charitable tone, accepting the general truths, while acknowledging the important exceptions?

    I think it benefits everyone to be more aware of the fact that different people will need different approaches to meet particular needs rather than describing a sure path that only helps some. As Loursat said, “When we’re dealing with any medical condition, what matters is the best possible improvement both in the short term and the long term. If that requires long-term intervention, or even permanent intervention, then so be it.” Amen to that, and the rest of Loursat’s comment!

    Not a Cougar, I don’t know how influential any particular Liahona article can be in the church, but it’s gotta be more influential than BCC!

  51. BHodges says:

    I also agree with Kristine and Not a Cougar that the church could benefit from having a real conversation about generational and political attitudes about masculinity, bootstrapping, etc.

  52. Not a Cougar says:

    BHodges, that’s a low bar for influence and thanks for the post!

  53. BHodges, thanks for responding to this misguided idea. Like you and others, I’m disappointed that the Liahona editors chose to publish it.

    This is a bit of a tangent, but I wonder to what degree this “reduce dependence” idea is related to the libertarian fantasy that so many American Mormons have, that they can be disconnected from everyone else, independent and free of government. This type of thinking is, of course, fueled by re-reading talks by the likes of Ezra Taft Benson, who gave prepper gems like this one in Conference:

    Anyway, I just wonder if these two types of thinking–being dependent on medication or therapy is bad; being dependent on government is bad–reinforce each other or spring from a common source. It’s really sad that a religion that ostensibly wants us to “mourn with those that mourn” produces so many people who are so anti-community.

  54. I don’t have much to add. I just wanted to say Blair, I love you. You are a treasure and a gem in our church.

  55. Old woman says:

    Some thoughts:

    1. Upon reading the article in the Liahona, my first impression was that it was too facile. Thanks to BHodges for taking the time to reveal the complexities involved in discussing mental illness. Jacob Hess mentions that he worked with a team of editors (in his Public Square article) for about one year. I am assuming that this team were editors on the Liahona staff. It seems like it. Thanks “not a cougar” for your insight into the possible rationality behind the article.

    2. The section in the Liahona article, “Decrease Dependence”, feels like gaslighting to me. Maybe a result of the editorial input of the Liahona staff. Lumping alcohol and illegal substances together with medication and food, is very confusing. There is no scientific rational behind this. My husband and I served for two years as Addiction Recovery Group Leaders in our stake. Essentially this is a spiritual approach to repentance with a heavy emphasis on relying on the Savior. As we worked with numerous people, I felt that many of these people had underlying conditions (anxiety, adhd) that needed to be addressed by a mental health professional. Alcohol and other substances as self medication mask the underlying conditions that could be helped by the very medications that Hess disparages in his article. It felt like we were trying to put a bandaid on a broken bone.

    3. Yes Kristine, The missionary program needs an overhaul. Thank you for great suggestions. My son served a mission in the early 1990’s, on the cusp of awareness of mental health issues and missions. He developed major anxiety, full blown panic attacks. He wanted to go home. He spoke with his mission President who proceeded to accuse him of sinning and told him to repent. His companion was charged with solving my son’s problems, so what did he do but perform an exorcism, tried to chase the devil out of him. Fortunately a senior missionary couple recognized what was going on and got him medical help, and advised that he be allowed to go home. The Church has made some progress since then.They do recognize mental illness as an issue, allow weekly phone calls home, and provide for exercise as part of a missionary’s daily routine, but it is still not enough. Given the Liahona article’s bias against dependency on meds, with an increased reliance on the Lord, this may be a step backwards from a palatable approach to missionary work.


  56. Mortimer says:

    Are the Liahona editors the ONLY ones who approve final copy each month? I’ve always assumed the correlation committee (some 70s and staff) edit it, but does the FP or Q15 read/review each issue? Anyone know?

  57. BHodges says:

    Ziff, I think a libertarian ethos undergirds Jacob’s article, PSQ, and also much of white North American Mormonism including a good portion of the current hierarchy. It’s a weird kind of libertarianism though, where the central locus of control doesn’t reside strictly with the individual, but is actualized only in the individual’s decision to cede ultimate authority to the institutional church. (This is related to why I think a lot of members could vote for Trump with so little cognitive dissonance. A lot of Mormons know he’s a terrible person. But they aren’t looking for an exemplary president because the church and its leadership provides the source of their moral direction. And oh dear I almost just went down a whole rabbit hole about that, but I’ll leave it there for now.)

  58. BHodges says:

    Matt W. , New Cool Thang!

    Old woman

    The section in the Liahona article, “Decrease Dependence”, feels like gaslighting to me. Maybe a result of the editorial input of the Liahona staff. Lumping alcohol and illegal substances together with medication and food, is very confusing. There is no scientific rational behind this.

    I think it’s a core part of Jacob’s own approach to mental health services. I think he probably had to be creative about how he spoke about pharmaceuticals (he’s more directly negative about them in his other work and the PSQ response) because the Liahona was probably more hesitant than he is to oppose such interventions. So he shaped the piece to fit the sensibilities of the editors and audiences, like anyone who writes for the church must do.

    That must have been an interesting experience with the Addiction stuff! I join you in celebrating advances in the culture of missionaries, but think we could do even better.

    Mortimer, I have no idea how exactly the vetting works.

  59. As of today (June 29–though it may have been modified earlier), item #7 in the Hess article has been changed substantially in the online version of the Liahona as compared to the print version, which I have in front of me. As noted above, it was originally titled “Decrease Dependence” and quotes 2 Nephi 2:26, “Act for yourselves and not to be acted upon.” (Each of the 7 sections in the article begins with a scripture.) It is now called “Increase Your Capacity and Resilience” and says,
    “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).
    “Painful mental and emotional challenges can limit our natural capacities in various ways. That leads many to seek additional help from a variety of outside supports as needed. These include qualified medical and mental health professionals offering medication or counseling, family, friends, and other helpful resources such as the Church’s emotional resilience course. Some unfortunately turn to illegal substances, alcohol, and other unhealthy escapes that may provide temporary relief but ultimately can be detrimental to long-term healing.
    “When used appropriately, outside resources can support us as we seek deeper healing. People who find more sustainable recovery report experiencing incremental growth in their emotional capacity and resilience over time.”
    Hopefully these changes were in response to direct complaints to the Liahona and to the BCC post.
    Blair quotes the original Section 7 (which remains in the printed copies) in his post.

  60. HippieChickie says:

    Hi Blair—I am an RN, and I start strongly with you and my brothers and sisters who similarly suffer. I too have depression and anxiety, and I took way too long to begin use of meds. Once I did, I realized that I had been missing out—missing out on the sort of inner calm that is denied us by anxiety. Missing out on the confidence that depression steals. I deeply resent someone like this trying to steal people’s confidence in their treatment and their practitioners. And I even more deeply resent him stigmatizing things—INCLUDING use of alcohol and illegal drugs. I worked for several years with inmates in the jail and saw the worst end-point of these stigmas—people so low that they have lost themselves. We MUST stop treating medicating—including self-medicating—as a weakness, and instead see it for what it is—a desperate survival instinct and a need to make one self feel better. Until we learn (and practice) that people need treatment, NOT JUDGEMENT, we will never truly heal people. And the fact that the Church gave him this forum—I think I resent that most deeply of all.

    Solidarity and love, my brother. And to all of you who suffer. Take care of yourselves.

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