So, awhile ago we were in Portland and my husband got a pamphlet/magazine from a Jehovah’s Witness. (side note, while I was on my mission in Virginia, I considered it a great success if I ever got a Jehovah’s Witness missionary to take some of our literature… so I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for them still). Normally we wouldn’t really check out the Jehovah’s Witness material, but this issue of “Awake!” (randomly from December 2014?) was titled “What You Should Know About Mental Disorders.”
We kept it since my husband thought I should read it, see what the Jehovah’s Witnesses are teaching about mental illness, and compare it to what the LDS church does/doesn’t do to promote mental health awareness.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. They had some quotations from someone dealing with bipolar disorder and PTSD, which was nice to personalize the discussion. The thing I appreciated most, however, was the direct focus on the fact that mental illnesses are real, treatable conditions. They used information from the World Health Organization and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. There were fascinating and depressing statistics on the percentage of adults and youth who did not get treatment for their mental disorders.
They had great, concise information about how to understand and treat mental disorders, focusing on the importance of receiving professional care from mental health specialists.
They addressed the difference between mental and spiritual health, which I loved. Two specific quotations stood out to me: “The Bible does not indicate that spirituality cures medical problems” and “While the Bible is not a health-care book, it provides practical guidance that can help us to cope with painful emotions and distressing circumstances.” Good for the Jehovah’s Witnesses for emphasizing these points! Spiritual and mental health are distinct, though spiritual strength can help us endure (though not necessarily treat) mental health challenges.
To conclude, “Awake!” provided a list of 9 ways to “deal” with mental disorders, the first of which was getting treated by “qualified mental-health professionals.” Many of the remaining eight tips included ideas on how to keep yourself physically and mentally well. The very last tip was to “give attention to your spiritual needs.”
Overall, I thought the information was fabulous and very important. It was concise and properly acknowledged that mental illness is not dependent or caused by spiritual health.
LDS Mental Health Website
The LDS Church also has great information regarding mental health and mental illness. The website on mental health has links for those who need immediate care, though below those links there is a greater focus on spirituality and you have to wade through these quotations and more “church” focused information before getting to the specifics about mental illness in more general and non-spiritual ways.
I would hope that Bishops and church leaders refer members to professional care (and not necessarily just LDS psychologists or therapists!) when they come in with mental health concerns. We should not be afraid of going to get non-Mormon professional health care, whether for physical or mental health issues! I don’t think a Bishop would say to a pregnant woman, “you better look for an LDS OB-GYN and not go to the doctor unless they are Mormon,” but I think that many members feel like they can’t go to psychologist unless they are a member of the Church. This is absolutely not true! Get the help you need and remember that mental illness is not a spiritual problem.