Mental Illness in the Church: Are We Ministering Effectively? Or Ministering At All?

Today I’ll point you to an old post of mine at Times and Seasons on mental illness in the Church and ask for further input here. It’s one of the most important issues I faced during my time as bishop of the Appleton Second Ward years ago. It was the area where I had the biggest surprises, and also the biggest miracles. Some of the most dramatic events of my life were in that area, dealing with the generally hidden and painful worlds of pain of those struggling with mental illness, including those who have endured the trauma of abuse.

Mental illness is as real as a broken leg or crushed spleen, but much harder to treat. The support and sympathy provided is typically far less than for someone hit by a car or even an out-of-control shopping cart, because the injury is not easy to see and many of us think it’s “just in their head.” Sort of like brain cancer is just in your head.

I hope we will be willing to learn more about this area that affects many, many people to varying degrees, and improve our ability to minister with love, the way Christ would if He were here.

If you are aware of good resources and websites that can be especially appropriate for LDS members and leaders to improve our ability to help, please let me know.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “Mental Illness in the Church: Are We Ministering Effectively? Or Ministering At All?

  1. I've found LDS Family Services a decent place to start:

    BYU's Counseling and Psychological Services has some good resources:

    The Church also has a good (if incomplete) summary of church-centric views and resources (especially pay attention to the links at the bottom of the page):

    BYU's Comprehensive Clinic has a list of potential resources (many are Utah specific, however):

    The McKay School of Education at BYU also has some good resources for those facing addictions (plus other useful resources): – related to this is a talk about pornography addiction by Rick Moody, given at BYU in 2003 (here's a transcript of it –

    BYUtv has a nice program (Living Essentials) that covers many mental health issues:

    Speaking as someone with mental health training and who works as a mental health provider (but my specialty is with neurological disorders), many mental health professionals in the U.S. will provide good support. There is still a lot of work we need to do to reduce the stigma of mental health problems but the mental health profession as a whole is much less hostile to religion than it used to be (thanks in part to great work by psychologists at BYU).

    There are many more great resources out there, I just selected a few that might be more relevant to LDS church members. If anyone has more questions, feel free to contact me (not for care, just for resources) via email at neuron {at} brainy behavior {dot} com.

  2. I have decided to follow you blog. I have read many of your personal articles and am quite impressed. You have inspired me to start my own blog and write about my own inerests. It is in the making;).

    As far as my thoughts go on helping others with mental illnesses. The one that I feel is most difficult to see in others is severe depression. I have lost friends and family members who have suffered from this illness. A few of there stories have ended in a very tragic way. The most interesting thing about it is that those who suffer from depression are those you would never guess are dealing with such a issue. This has caused me to be more mindful of those I love and ask heavenly father to lead me to those who need help. The spirit is the greatest guide to finding the needs of others. We can also turn to useful sources like which can help us identify symptoms of possible sever depression. Thanks for your post!

  3. Thanks you Jared for the information.
    Since my son is uninsured he has nowhere to go where he lives. We do what we can to help. I will direct him to your site.
    Where I live we found an excellent LDS therapist. Not all LDS therapists will be good or compatible for everyone, but after using non-LDS professionals in my area I prefer LDS. When I lived in a very large city I used non-LDS therapists (there were no
    LDS taking new patients) and they were good but it took a lot of looking.
    I appreciate those who are mindful of those with mental illness. My son and I struggle with it every day. You can't shake it off the way some people think. It's awful waking up every day believing you are not worth anything. It's hard, and it exacerbates any physical illnesses one may have, like me.

  4. Amen, amen, and Amen!

    I have lurked in the shadows, following and enjoying your blog for some time now. This post hit a raw nerve, and prompted me to come out of the shadows and respond. Your analogy of the broken leg or crushed spleen is great, but as a church member trying hard to serve as best I can, and live as best I can, whilst enduring a number of mental illnesses, I have found myself using another comparison. There seems to be a no-questions-asked acceptance of members (myself included, because it makes sense!) for someone to take lifelong medication for high cholesterol, for high blood pressure, for diabetes, and accept such treatment as the solution, even praising medical advances as being divinely directed; they work, they have certain potential side effects that need to be monitored, but the consensus is, the use of these medicines is the best (and life-saving) remedy for the ailment. Yet these same people respond in horror when I have mentioned I am on medication that is keeping me alive, giving me some control over my mental illness. That horror is increased when they discover there is no time frame as to when I may cease to use such medication!

    I have also heard the argument used in ward and stake leadership meetings regarding members struggling with mental illness, that if they just pray hard enough, live more righteously, and just "get over it", they wouldn't have a "problem". I have certainly not heard that argument used towards a number of brethren who have recently battled with prostate cancer! 🙂

    I thank you for your wonderful blog, and your genuine concern for those suffering from an illness that seems in many ways still a taboo illness to talk about, or to suffer from!

  5. Thanks! Say, hypertension looks like a very good analogy. It's an invisible disease and often requires lifetime medication to keep it under control. Ignoring it can be disastrous and often fatal.

  6. Ironically, I just posted something on my own blog this morning about the same subject – and have written a few other times about it, as well.

    SG-3, my mother is schizophrenic, and my second son has Type I diabetes. The point you made in your comment is exactly the point I have made in more than one post. The one from this morning is a very short post, but if you are interested, click on my name and read it.

  7. I believe there should be an additional handbook and training for bishops and other priesthood leaders which addresses mental illness and the trauma and other affects of abuse. Often they are the 'first responders' when abuse is discovered or they are the only regular counselors that many who are mentally ill ever talk to. Yet they are usually uneducated and uninformed about the subject and often do more damage than good in what they say and how they treat those who have been abused or those who suffer from temporary or long term mental issues.

    In my case, my wife suffered through sadistic sexual abuse through most of her childhood. Her Bishop at the time terribly mishandled the situation. Yet, my wife has remained a faithful member her whole life. Recent events have brought more of thwee hidden affects of her long years of abuse to the fore and she is suffering from PTSD and depression. Not knowing why my wife was acting the way she was, or Ward leaders often said or did things that made it worse. We met with them and explained the situation and her needs and, unfortunately instead of pulling together and offering more support and fellowship as they might offer someone suffering from a physical disease such as cancer, that pulled away. This added to the feelings of isolation and made it worse because they knew what the issues were yet chose to not mourn with her or bear her burdens. One in four women have suffered sexual abuse in their lifetimes. They suffer in silence in most cases. Where is the Relief Society on this issue? A casserole and a cheery message printed on scrapbook paper doesn't help much. And becomes almost insulting after a while.

    The church has made a substantial effort to help those who suffer from this. LDS Family Services is very helpful and has many good counselors. But this only really helps if you live in an urban area that has a lot of members and therefore has a good LDS Family Services facility with a good selection of counselors. For those living in rural areas and those living in areas of the country with few members, they don't have access to these services.

    1. Continued from previous post.

      But at the local level the support is still very lacking. There needs to be more training and awareness at the local level. And the same efforts expended to support those who are injured or seriously ill and their families should also be made to support those who are dealing with mental illness or recovering from abuse.

    2. Often a Ward or Stake will rally aound a member who is taken ill or is injured and while that is a good thing and can be somewhat beneficial, it will only usually only be a minor factor in the actual treatment that leads to theit recovery. While, in the case of someone who suffers from mental illness or the affects of abuse the attitude of the ward is a primary factor in their recovery and healing and is often the only treatment they receive.

  8. I haven't been to your blog in a long time and skimming through your last few articles this one leapt out at me. It's definitely an area that I think many in the church struggle with and as others have noted there is a stigma against "mind altering drugs".
    As for church friendly resources one christian friendly expert is Dr Grant Mullen and his training helped open my eyes to mental illness as it relates to being Christian and despite some ill informed members opinions it is not a sin to be depressed or burned out. Much of his teachings helped me to reach out and help my fellow ward members with their struggles. Probably a good overview of his teachings are in his q and a

  9. Trackback from;f=43;t=000018

    Bishop Lindsay.
    Bishop Pink.
    Bishop [LM's bishop from a few years back].

    All of them asking, begging, for additional training.

    There's a great book written by Alexander B. Morrison of the seventy: Valley of Sorrow: A Layman's Guide to Understanding Mental Illness I have literally purchased dozens of these books used, and handed them out to bishoprics and stake presidencies. I've had unanimous energetic positive feedback from folks. These brethren already have plenty to do and not enough time, and usually don't go around looking to read every book pushed at them by every busybody member in their stewardship. But they dearly wanted/needed the information in this book. Without exception, every bit of feedback included "I'm having my counselors read this next".

    Pink, I have one copy left from my latest round of buying. If you send me your address, I'm happy to mail it to you. Otherwise, you can get it off used for four bucks including shipping.

    I've said it before multiple times, and I'll say it here again: When they make me emperor of the mormons, this book will be required reading for every presidency from Primary and YM/YW on up.

    Pink and Jeff, your anxiety really resonates. I've also collected stories from over a dozen dear souls burdened with such issues, who had very negative experiences with priesthood leaders. About half are no longer LDS – having left the church over the failings of their leaders, expressed through bad advice, perceived lack of compassion, or unjust accusations. Some of these experiences were collected from the news, where Bishop Somebody refused to believe a story of abuse or incest, preferring to shelter and protect the perpetrator and lecture the victim on a duty to forgive and forget. More than one of these stories have come from folks who are no longer on this earth, having killed themselves.

    My wife, who must bear her story of childhood abuse, has been blessed with inspired and educated and thoughtful church leaders, as well as burdened with the occasional thoughtless or ignorant church leader. She tells me some of the most positive experiences she's had, involve bishops who had good advice, comfort to give, and also clearly admitted ignorance about things they had no clue about.

    I sustain all y'all. I do not envy your burdens. I welcome Jeff's article and all like it.

    p.s. High five to Jeff Lindsay from someone else who has experienced the rare and strange blessings of working with someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (It hasn't been called multiple-personality disorder for a while.) Replace your words "frightened and inexperienced bishop" with "worried and ignorant loved one", and I could have written word for word what you wrote.

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