Mormons and Suicide

Trigger warning: suicidal ideation and completion, sexual abuse, self-injury.

Suicide is an extremely complicated, sensitive and personal topic. In searching for general information in regard to Mormons and suicide, I found the internet largely absent of  LDS-specific suicide support groups or information. A handful common links popped up, which included an article titled Suicide by Elder M. Russell Ballard, a study called Mormon Women, Prozac and Therapy by Kent Ponder which addresses the high rate of depression and anti-depressant usage in Mormon women and lastly, When Your Child is Depressed by Sean E. Brotherson. Shockingly, the Ballard article was first published in 1987, the Ponder work was created in 2003 and the Brotherson compilation in 2004. To wit, in a search of the LDS.org website on 25 April 2011, the search term “suicide” gained 171 results, wherein the terms “peanut” and “chocolate” achieved 400 and 753 results, respectively. This implies that peanuts and chocolate are more important reference topics than suicide, or suicidal thoughts. A recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune addressed the fact that Utah has a statistically higher suicide rate that most other US states. To me, this means that Mormons are committing suicide, but precious few people are talking about it. 

Considering the public position of the church in regard to suicide, this lack of reference and support material is no surprise.  Spencer W. Kimball used the term “criminal” and Bruce R. McConkie used the phrase “mentally- clouded” in reference to suicidal individuals (quoted here). I see no benefit in calling someone a “mentally-clouded criminal”, especially if they are so distressed that they are considering taking their own life. I am very concerned and disappointed that these statements are among the very few that are included in LDS suicide searches. And while Gordon B. Hinckley addressed loneliness and depression associated with teens, the term suicide was not used, making it the elephant in the room. In light of all of this, it became clear to me that suicide is a very present, but silent killer in Mormon culture because of the labels given to people who feel suicidal.

So let me say this here: SUICIDE HAPPENS TO MORMONS. Even those who are not mentally clouded or criminal. It happens to people going through a very difficult personal time. And, if suicide has touched your life, either in your own thought or by the attempt or loss of a friend or a relative to suicide, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

I privately asked individuals to share their experience in regard to suicide. The multiple layers of pain, anger, distress and fear of exposure made it evident that Mormons are ashamed to talk about suicide. As a result, I am sharing a part of this collection. I hope that the below will express that those who have been touched by suicide are not alone. And although I could not locate any LDS-specific resources for suicide, if you or someone you know is dealing with suicide, there are hotlines at the end of this post where just one phone call will assure you that you are not alone.

Please note: This is not a scientific sample of the overall Mormon population, however, commonalities include: all respondents are Mormon, all respondents are women and all respondents have had personal experience with suicide. Each respondent was promised anonymity. As a result, I have edited or modified identifying characteristics.

Respondent 1: One of my roommates in college attempted suicide. Another roommate came and asked me to go and talk to her, I guess because I worked part-time at the counseling center at the school, but I was a receptionist! I wasn’t really friends with any of my roommates, so it was awkward. But I still went in. I sat there and just started talking, I don’t even remember what about. She was Mormon too, but I don’t think she was really going. She finally agreed to let me call someone. So I called the counselor I liked best and told her what was going on. She cleared her calendar and I took my roommate to see her immediately. Everyone thanked me after, but the whole time, I just kept thinking that I was totally lost and I didn’t know why everyone seemed to think that I was supposed to be the one to help her. It scared me.  I am glad I could help get her to a counselor, but I kind of felt like I just dumped her on someone else. I felt ashamed about that and didn’t know what to say to her after. I guess I felt like we were supposed to be closer friends then, but I wasn’t sure. But I am so glad she was okay.

Respondent 2: I think I was 7 the first time I tried to kill myself. There was money missing from my father’s wallet, and my mother decided I had stolen it. I suppose she was trying to get me to confess, because she came into my room and told me that she was going to call the police. But I hadn’t taken the money. So she told me that the police would take me to the station, strip me naked and look inside my vagina to find the money, because that is where thieves hide money. Going into this sexual and abusive detail terrified me. I think what she was saying should have been considered sexual abuse. She told me to say my bedtime prayer because the police were coming to get me in the morning. I knew that God knew that I hadn’t stolen the money. And I knew that to go to God, I had to be dead. So I put a plastic shopping bag on my head, and prayed that I would die in my sleep. I was scared and didn’t put the bag on very tight and just prayed that God would close the bag and I would die in my sleep. I don’t know how long later, but it was still night and my mother came in, took the bag off my head and told me that the money was found.

But I still wanted to be dead. No one was safe and no one but God could protect me, so I wanted to be dead. A few years later I asked my mother about suicide when I understood what the word meant. I think I was 9 or 10 then. She said that people who commit suicide are cowards, who left everyone else to solve their problems and that I shouldn’t talk about things like that on Sunday. I started to hate Sundays and decided that I didn’t even care about seeing God again. I just wanted to be dead, almost all the time I thought about it. My father said that the telestial kingdom is so wonderful that we would all kill ourselves to get there to get there if we saw it. So I took his word for it. I ate a bottle of aspirin when I was about 13. My sister found me and panicked and called my aunt and uncle. I vomited everything up and everyone said it was a mistake, but no one asked me about it.

I felt like I was already dead, I think- just observing everything and disconnected. I tried to kill myself again, but failed. I was tiring of failing at death and became even sadder. So I started cutting myself at about 14. That felt good. I felt alive when I was cutting myself.  It was a relief. That actually sort of changed me. I didn’t seek constantly to be dead, but I didn’t care about being alive. I would take five aspirins if I had a small headache, for instance. Just in case they could poison me. I was in a few accidents later on. People said I was clumsy, but I really didn’t care about protecting my head or anything. I remember waking up after one where I was unconscious and thinking that I was disappointed that I didn’t die. I was still doing normal stuff, young women goals, seminary, school, dating. But it was all just routine. Doing what I was supposed to, rather than what I wanted to do. The only thing I ever really wanted was to be “not alive”. I can’t explain it. I had no other goals. I just coasted. Things started getting bad again in my early 20’s after I had been away at college for a while. One Sunday, I just decided I had enough. I wanted to go home. Home to God, even if He was going to send me to hell. So I drove to Wal-Mart to buy a gun because that was the only place I knew sold guns. Turns out that was on Easter, so Wal-mart was closed! I sat in the parking lot crying and screaming at God because Wal-Mart was closed. But- the next day, I felt a little better. I finally went to counseling after that. I never went before because my parents told me that only crazy screwy people went to counseling to unscramble their brains. And I told the counselor about that and other things. So things started to get better and I started to believe that I could be happy. That was an LDS counselor. I still think of her. She was good.

But because I have been thinking about suicide for almost 20 years, well, that thought is a part of me. Even now and a wife and mother who is married in the temple, I absently say “I wish I was dead” almost daily. I still think about putting a gun to my head on hard days. But I don’t think I would try again. But the idea of being away from everything stressing me makes me feel better. I guess that is why some people think of heaven or the next life. But for me, the idea of suicide is like heaven without the family that hurt me. So I think of that alot. Suicide is safer than heaven. I hate that I can’t stop thinking about it, even though I don’t want to be dead anymore. I want to be alive.

Respondent 3: My second baby was stillborn. I felt like my husband blamed me somehow. I knew he did, even though he didn’t say so. It was a terrible time. He started working really long hours, and started spending time with another woman who was friends with an inactive Mormon woman. The inactive woman was telling me that I was hen-pecking him and telling him who to be friends with and that I should leave him alone. But her husband had left her, and I didn’t want that to happen to me. But it was like everyone was like her– everyone was telling me how to feel and what to do, and no one was listening to me and I am a convert, so I had to be happy and show my non-member family how to be because I thought my being a missionary would make me feel better and would protect my marriage. No one was listening to me, and I felt terrible inside. If it wasn’t for my first child, I would have killed myself. But I couldn’t stand the idea of leaving my living child with someone else. We ended up moving house, and things are fine now. We have been to counselling at LDS family services and they helped. They even helped my husband deal with other things he had going on. But for that time after the baby died, I was so alone. People were there telling me that they were sorry, but that I should just move on an serve again. That made me feel even more alone- like my miscarriage meant nothing, and I was still blaming myself. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. I am glad for my life now and am very happy and very blessed. I know Jesus loves me. He helped me get out of that time in my life.

Respondent 4: My uncle committed suicide on Christmas. I guess they say he had a hard wife—she was always nagging him. But he was the one who brought us into the gospel! He was the first member of our family to be a member of the church! He introduced us to the church. So we were all shocked. His son found him hanging from a window after an argument. And because he was high up in the church, a lot of stake presidents came to the funeral and everything. And one of them said that we don’t know what state of mind he was in at the time he did that. But I think I would get into trouble if I spoke to anyone about it even though it happened when I was in high school. Because we are supposed to push it down. I still think about that at Christmas, but no one talks about it. No one talks about it ever. We aren’t supposed to. I think everyone blames my aunt. I would get into trouble if I spoke about it to anyone.

Respondent 5:  A few years ago, my sister tried to kill herself. I think she had been trying for a while, but this time, she became violent against others who were trying to stop her. So they called the police and took her away in hand cuffs. Somehow it worked out that she went to a mental hospital instead of jail. It came out that she had been raped when she was about 15. But we were all told in Young Women that if we were raped, that it was our fault. If we were raped, it was because we dressed immodestly or enticed men somehow. I was even taught in Merrie Miss– so I assume she was too- that if we weren’t virgins, we might as well be dead.  So she didn’t tell anyone about the assault and blamed herself, even though the attacker was old enough to be her father and was in a position of authority. She even confessed to the Bishop that she had been sexually active, hoping that would make the attacks stop. I am a few years older than she is, so had left for college when this was happening, so I can’t really say what my perceptions were at the time because I wasn’t there. When I saw her at Christmas, everything seemed normal. But she was crashing on the inside. She moved out when she was 16 to live with my Grandmother. She went to LDS Family Services then, but they didn’t seem to help her. But I don’t know if she was able to tell them about the rapes or if they focused on other things that were also crashing in her life by then.

So after a decade of depression, ill-choices and feeling like everything was her fault…she drove her car into a tree. Everyone said it was an accident, but I had a feeling something else was going on. Still, I didn’t say anything. I lived in a different state at that point with a family of my own, so I guess it didn’t occur to me to really do anything. Then she drove a car into a building. Same thing, everyone said it was an accident. Then she pulled a knife to cut herself. Her teenage son tried to stop her and she pulled the knife on him. That’s when they called the police. After she was institutionalized, everyone started to say “suicide” and “rape” out loud. She is out of the mental hospital now, but can’t live on her own. She is considered psychologically disabled and lives in a group home, though she can leave to attend some family things. She is medicated and has lost her driver’s license. I don’t think she considers herself Mormon anymore. I don’t ask her about church stuff. To be honest, after learning all of this, I wanted to take a baseball bat and go and bash in the head of the rapist. I also think about the Young Women leaders who taught us that it was our fault if we were raped. I don’t respect, trust or care for them or the Young Women manuals for teaching such bullsh!t. And all this is probably really stupid- because my anger doesn’t help my sister in healing. But I don’t know what else to do besides to be angry on her behalf. She seems okay now, she is somewhat independent and on anti-depressants. I am so glad that she has finally found some help in anti-depressants.

Respondent 6: My younger brother tried to kill himself. His girlfriend broke up with him, and he went and tried to hang himself in the garage. My sister and his girlfriend heard something and went in and stopped him. He never went to counselling. And none of us told my parents because we were afraid they would be really angry. They still don’t know, but I think he is still having problems.

Respondent 7: I met someone through my blog because of her suicide attempt.  Her church counselor contacted me about her. She had a painful, chronic disease and had been reading my blog for a long time.  She swallowed pills, and then changed her mind. She called someone for help and they were able to have her stomach pumped. So she survived.  Her counselor contacted me and asked if I would try to be friend because she’d found so much connection in my blog.  Eventually we met in person. As her depression lifted, our friendship grew.  She’s now doing really well–professionally and health-wise. I think a lot about whether she were to choose to try suicide again….I feel like I would have to honor that she tried so hard to make her life work, and honor the choice to want to end it, too.

Respondent 8: My cousin killed himself. It was a big deal- he threw himself off of a building in the business district. We didn’t know he was upset—he was always the one who said that everything was okay and really laid back. He never liked to argue. But he had trouble getting work. And he was smart! He was a graphic designer and had trouble getting a job and trouble at work. The police were there trying to talk him down for a while. They even got him to eat—they said, “Hey, why don’t you have something to eat and relax?” And pushed a sandwich towards him. And he ate it. But then he said, “I wanna be free”. And he jumped. They thought they were going to talk him down. But they didn’t. I don’t know how they did it, but the funeral home did a really good job, because his body was really messed up from hitting the ground. But he looked nice for the funeral. My aunt was very upset, but then, after the funeral, she said she had a dream. In her dream, he was wearing all white and he was smiling—she said she had never seen him look happier. That helped her and she didn’t seem to worry about him. Especially since people say such terrible things about people who commit suicide in the church. They really say terrible things! But they don’t know. His mother she said she had never seen him look happier in her dream. And we all felt good about that.

This is not an internationally comprehensive list of suicide hotlines. Please feel free to amend and add suicide hotlines in the comments.

Suicide hotlines by US state: http://suicidehotlines.com/

US National suicide hotline: 1800 SUICIDE (1 800 784 2433)

Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14

New Zealand suicide hotline: 1800 999 9999

UK suicide hotline: 08457 90 91 92 or 08457 90 90 90

Ireland suicide hotline: 1850 60 60 90

Canada suicide hotline: 1800 273 TALK (1800 273 8255)

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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83 Responses

  1. Noah says:

    Selfish. Cowardly. These are the ways people tend to describe suicide and suicide attempts. I get it. Suicides have the power to destroy families and rock communities, and so people sometimes react with anger. I’ve never attempted suicide, but I’ve been in the hospital twice for threatening it. I grew up in a Mormon community, and I have no doubt that being LDS was a cintributing factor. You see, in Mormondom, individual agency is placed on a very high pedestal. Well good, but let’s be aware of the side-effects. In Mormonism, you own all of your sins. It doesn’t matter where you’re coming from or what you’ve endured, the bar is the same for everyone. I have Bipolar II, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and DSPS. In common terms, I have an acute case of lazy-ism. I am lucky to have a very good psychiatrist and a supportive family. Many people who have these types of disorders remain undiagnosed. In a Church that teaches that you must work to earn your salvation, that an individual is solely responsible for everything he does, and that uses guilt and shame as a motivator, one shouldn’t be surprised that people like me are prone to suicidal ideation when they feel they don’t measure up. To most Mormons, Mormonism as a religion, to people like me, Mormonism is a competitive sport…one that we really suck at. It’s really quite hard to separate Christ’s inclusive gospel (the one that promises rest, peace, easiness, etc) from what some near-sighted GAs have said (or have neglected to say), but, alas, we persevere. Then again, some of us don’t, nay, can’t, and that’s a tragedy.

    • Janna says:

      I love this, “Mormonism is a competitive sport…one that we really suck at.”

      I think many people feel like this!

  2. Jill says:

    Great, great post! I think that it is SO important for us as a community to be open and supportive about mental illness, because so many people feel like they have to constantly uphold some kind of facade of perfection. THANKS

  3. Lorraine says:

    I think it’s so great that exponent took the time to address this really critical issue of how mormons address suicide (or DON’T address it, as the case is) and that the author provided some suicide support lines. I would love to see some more interpretation of these stories- I feel a little drained after reading so much tragedy. Do you as the author feel that the common thread is a lack of open communication, and what sources do you recommend that Mormons might find friendly for education on how to talk about suicide and mental health? What tools can we share that will help our community to learn how to stop avoiding this topic?

    • spunky says:

      Thank you for commenting, Lorraine. I agree– I was so very drained in compiling this that I had to just put it aside and not think of it. It was very overwhelming.

      I am the first to admit that Mormons don’t need another meeting… but I like the idea of mental health development, sort of in the mind frame of teacher development. There seems to me, that most wards and branches I have been in *should* but often don’t have teacher development classes, but at least there is the “Teaching, no greater call” booklet for people to access for rudimentary assistance. I think it would be great to have a similar pamphlet/training for all leadership in dealing with death, depression, helplessness, stress and otherwise. I do not think that RS presidents or Bishops should be obligated to offer formulated counseling, but it would be nice to have them be prepared to direct people for counseling and care. Even an LDS suicide and depression hotline might be nice.

      What do you think?

      • Lorraine says:

        I should have expressed more my gratitude for all your work compiling these stories, well done to you.

        I really like your suggestion of an LDS hotline if done correctly, where people can feel like the person taking the call would be understanding to their specific situation (and likewise a great service opportunity for the people at the call center to get training and be providing a, how would you say, jesus-like christian service!)

        but call centers are also reactive instead of proactive- I just wish that in general there were more materials or avenues for teaching parents about this. what the signs are of depression, how to talk to someone, how to be an ally for living. I don’t think we necessarily need more meetings- if relief society’s goal is to teach women how to strengthen their family, why not have an enrichment about parenting children with depression? What parent won’t at some point deal with that? Like you explained so well in this blog, there’s just not a lot of resources in place for this in the church when a person suddenly desperately goes looking.

        thanks for the conversation, spunky!

  4. jks says:

    According to this, high altitude might cause suicide.
    http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/01/14/link-between-suicide-living-at-high-altitude/22650.html

    I grew up in the church. I have wonderful, loving parents. I knew that suicide was wrong, but also knew that if someone had suicidal thoughts they should get help. Also, I knew if I was raped that it wouldn’t be my fault.
    I have been to two lds suicide funerals. One was the wife of a boss of my husband’s (a summer job so I had never met her). One was the son of old family friends (so I hadn’t seen him in years). I felt like people weren’t sure how to deal with the aftermath since we believe suicide is wrong, but there seemed to be a lot of hope and a lot of faith in the atonement and the fact that Jesus loves everyone and only he knows our hearts.

    • spunky says:

      This is beautiful, “a lot of faith in the atonement and the fact that Jesus loves everyone and only he knows our hearts.” I agree. I wish we really talked about that more, before getting to a point of finality.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      A relative has seasonal affective disorder and lives (not by choice) in Seattle.

      Even with medication, she’s not doing well.

  5. Diane says:

    I think an even more important topic that needs to be discussed is how to teach members of the Bishopric and Relief Society Presidencies how to deal with talking about the correct doctrine. In my experience, I had to put up with members telling me that I was full of Satan and don’t have enough of a relationship w/ God. My Bishopric and Relief Society Presidencies in two different wards were not any help. I was asked not to speak up for myself and not confront people who were saying these things. In a sense I was asked to be complicit in my own abuse. Thereby exacerbating my conditions. I eventually asked to have my name removed from church records I refuse to support a leadership that does not support me and wants me to support them

    • spunky says:

      Thank you for coming here and sharing with us. I am so sorry you had to go through that, Diane. I read a church book once about something like dealing with negative things in our lives- I can’t recall exactly now as its been a few years. I picked it up thinking I would share it with a friend who’s child had meningitis, and was permanently handicapped as a result, and decided to read it before I sent it to her. The author totally blamed the negative situation on the individual. His premise was that the only reason for sadness or bad things was that a person was dealing with drug addiction, sin, etc. so if they just repented, they would be fine. It was one of the most infuriating books I have ever read- I don’t think I even finished it. There was no way I was going to send it to my friend!! It seemed all about blaming the victim, and didn’t address the universal basic concept that bad things sometimes happen to good people. I am glad you are in a safe place now. Stay safe; I have a feeling in reading your words that you are very loved.

    • Moriah Jovan says:

      In my experience, I had to put up with members telling me that I was full of Satan and don’t have enough of a relationship w/ God.

      See, I don’t understand this, because the handbook is nearly silent on the subject. It just says that we don’t know those people’s states of mind and what pain they are experiencing and so we don’t believe it to be a *sin* necessarily.

      To me, that statement reads like something an evangelical would say.

  6. CatherineWO says:

    Thank you for approaching this topic, Spunky, and for gathering those personal stories. As I started thinking about all the people I know who have attempted or committed suicide, the list got quite long. The first one was my Sunday School teacher when I was about twelve or thirteen, who went home after church and shot himself in the head. He lived just a few doors down from us, but nobody heard the shot or found his body until many hours later. There were a lot of different things said about him and his family (he was a young man recently returned from a mission), but I have always been grateful for the way my mother handled it. She knew I was quite traumatized by it and sat me down and told me not to listen to what everyone else was saying (that he was a coward, that his family was abusive, that he could never go to the Celestial Kingdom). She told me that he was a very fine young man (which is what I knew in my gut) who had to deal with some very difficult things in his life and no one had any right to judge him. At the time, everyone else I knew was saying that suicide was a sin, but Mom thought differently, which forever shaped my own views.
    Suicide has since come so much closer to home for me. I think it scares us because it makes us feel so helpless when it happens to people we know and love. On the other hand, for the person contemplating suicide, it is often the only way one can feel some control in what seems like a helpless life.
    One book that my husband and I have found very helpful is Valley of Sorrow by Alexander B. Morrison (available from Deseret Book and Amazon). Elder Morrison speaks from personal experience with his daughter dealing with depression and mental illness. Since our own personal experience with our son (who thankfully is still alive and thriving), we welcome discussions about suicide and mental illness. We need to talk about these things and do it with love and compassion. The more we do so the less we will feel alone in our own personal “valley of sorrow.”

    • spunky says:

      Thank you so much, CatherineWO. Your mother sounds brilliantly insightful! I think the reason that people say these things at church that are so “blame the victim” oriented is because of the very limited resource material and most of which would make a person feel even worse about themselves for being suicidal!

      I am interested in reading Valley of Sorrow– thank you so much for a helpful reference… if there are any other helpful things you can think of, please share. Your advice and strength is always appreciated here. Thank you.

  7. Hilary says:

    I personally know of two different LDS families affected by suicide, and in both cases, a member of the 12 came to support the family, and pulled the wife/parents aside before the funeral to tell them that only God knows what a person is going through, and if they had reached that point in their life where suicide seemed like the only option, then they were in a place that none of the rest of us could even attempt to judge. Both families were assured of God’s mercy and love, and I know that one of families was told specifically that God would not hold their father/husband responsible for his actions when he was living in such chronic pain.

    • spunky says:

      Thank you for this, Hilary. Not judging is important, I am so glad that the families here had reminders of that.

  8. Mansfield says:

    The topic of suicide is so often used as a springboard merely to address other concerns. The conscripted dead themselves are almost irrelevant. The highly unrepresentative collection of anecdotes collected above highlights this tendency again.

  9. Diane says:

    Spunky

    I agree that Bishoprics and Relief Society Presidencies should not be giving advice as trained counselors, but, they should have training which helps be more sensitive and made more aware of things not to say. That would have helped me a lot. In addition, I think some cultural training needs to be addressed as well. My Branch on the East Coast was Primarily Asian, Including my Branch President.The Asian Culture as a whole does not deal with this topic as well and as a result have a higher rate of suicide as a whole.

  10. Diane says:

    Mansfield,

    My Branch was 85% Asian,10% African American, 5% Caucasian. My Relief Society President had a difficult time with our Asian sisters in the branch because they would not go seek services for their mental health problems. They suffered needlessly because of the shame in the Asian community in not admitting to themselves, but, to family members that they are having problems .

    • spunky says:

      Diane,

      It sounds like you are in a very unique and challenging situation in your branch. With increased immigration, international influences are important to consider in trying to serve and help people around us. I have heard that rates of suicide were very high in Asian countries, something in regard to always having honor, and lacking honor in providing for your family or otherwise was a huge factor in suicide. I also read that suicide was more common among women in China, whereas most other countries suicide rates among men were higher.

      Perhaps LDS family services could do a Relief Society or other meeting addressing depression? I don’t know if this is possible, but I am concerned about this burden and hope that there is a way to introduce a counseling resource without cultural or family baggage. Have you tried anything at the branch to address this? Has anything helped or not been helpful? I am worried about you and the members in branch who are struggling.

      • mcknz says:

        I think suicide is more common among women than men in China because, culturally, they are required to live with their mother-in-law. And their husbands will not assume leadership, to protect his bride from his rude mom.

  11. Rachel says:

    Thanks so much for this post.
    Throughout the years, I have taught RS lessons, Homemaking lessons, 5th Sunday lessons, etc. on mental health issues. My experience is the Church as come a long way from where it was even 25 years ago when I started in the profession. People are much more willing to talk about it. And the info the Church gives is way more helpful. For example, when you search ‘mental illness’ the first article which comes up gives tips for helping others. “Some mental illnesses reduce energy and motivation. Recognize that it may be hard for individuals with mental illness to read and pray.” This is radically different from being told if you don’t feel the Spirit it’s your fault.
    The Church has a long way to go, but I’m hopeful/optimistic because I’ve seen progress.

    • spunky says:

      Thanks for posting, Rachel. That is good to know about mental health issues being addressed more and more at church. I had not considered addressing that in this post, thank you for adding it. I am grateful that you have been active in addressing good mental health in your area, thank you. Please keep up your good work.

      My remaining concern is, well, the term suicide. It seems to me that the suicidal person is labelled with mental health issues, but only after the attempt. I heard a study once (I need to quit hanging out at universities) that depressed people are more realists compared to people who are not depressed. So I am not sure that someone feeling suicidal always considers themself to be mentally unhealthy, but may just see themselves frustrated and depressed, but with good reason. I am not sure. Do you have experience with this that you would feel comfortable to share?

      • Rachel says:

        There actually is good research on how people who are depressed are better at focusing. I can’t recall anything off the top of my head, but I know in Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness” he addresses the issue of depressed individuals of being perhaps more realistic.
        My experience is that, for most, when people initially have suicidal ideation, the fact that they’re having it, regardless of intention to complete, is highly distressing. For some, getting to that point is the cue to actually seek help from whatever outside source. Now, of course, it doesn’t always work that way.
        When it gets really scary is when it goes from “I can’t stand this” to “X person truly would benefit from my being gone” and the person is completely rational/logical about it.
        In my work, I am the clinical director for an intensive outpatient clinic, so these are adults who are just leaving an inpatient psychiatric facility, or are at risk for hospitalization, and they come to us 9+ hours a week to avoid an inpatient stay. So, dealing with suicide is something I experience daily. There’s a huge range–I wish I could just not wake up; I wish I could be hit by the train; I want to die but I would never do anything about it; I want to die, and I have a plan but only if things get reallllly bad; I don’t know if I’ll make it through until I’m back in clinic tomorrow.
        The other thing to think about in terms of suicide risk is not just “ideation/planning” but a host of other factors that, if present, despite no ideation, put a person at very high risk.
        Is this more than you wanted? Here are those factors:
        It’s an acronym–Is Path Warm?
        Ideation
        Substance Abuse
        Purposelessness
        Anxiety
        Trapped
        Hopelessness
        Withdrawal (this means social, not chemical)
        Anger
        Recklessness
        Mood Changes.
        As these add up, the risk increases.

      • spunky says:

        Thank you so much, Rachel. This is very helpful to understand a little more about the various …er… “levels” of suicidal thought. I really appreciate you weighing in on this and sharing your experience. I admire you for working at what I would deem is a very difficult and draining job. I hope that the information you have provided is helpful to people who may know of someone or who are considering suicide so that they can recognize and address “Is Path Warm” thoughts and will reach out for help. Thank you very, very much- I think you would have been a much better author for this post!

  12. Diane says:

    Diane

    I am no longer a member of the church, particularly because of this issue. I received abuse from two members in the branch because of my mental health issues and I was asked by my bishopric not to speak on it. It made me increasingly angry. People around me herd these members tell me ridiculous things and never spoke up for me on my behalf. I finally decided enough was enough, especially after writing the Stake and not receiving any support.

    I have a very good doctor who is not LDS, I don’t think one necessarily needs an LDS therapist to help sort out issues.

  13. Diane says:

    Spunky

    I’m sorry I don’t mean to constantly post, But, Rachel’s post has struck a nerve.
    Here’s why,

    Its really not helpful to tell a loved one that a person who has mental illness has a hard time reading, or praying. Mental illness has nothing to do with ones ability to read or not. Sure you may find comfort in it, but, the fact of the matter is, that more often than not mental illness is due to a chemical imbalance in brain. Might I suggest, that if you have a loved one who is suffering you bring them to your family doctor and have them run test, specifically a thyroid test. Low levels of thyroid function can often cause depressive episodes because your brain is not functioning at it highest level.

    That is much more helpful than telling a family member that someone who is depressed finds it hard to read and pray. Telling someone that its hard to read and pray suggest they are not developing a relationship with God and mental illness has nothing to do with your relationship to God. Nothing at all

    • spunky says:

      I don’t think Rachel’s intention was to direct us to tell people that it is hard to read and pray. I think she was pointing out that the church is trying in its own way to be progressive about mental health.

      That being said, what you went through sounds terrible. It is obvious that your leadership and fellow church goers did not have the right tools to help you; it sounds like you were just ignored. I am very sorry for that. But- I am very glad that you recognised that you were in a dead-end situation at church and were able to get help outside of the LDS circle.

      I am also very grateful that you brought up the point on medication. Medication can be a very important part of the healing process. I read a study about 10 years ago done by BYU that found that long-term anti-depressant use was more beneficial than short term, “quick fix” medication– thereby addressing the fact that depression and mental health is not a quick fix; it needs time and can sometimes require lifelong medication, not unlike asthma, diabetes or a hundred other conditions.

      How do you suggest we encourage people to go to a doctor for help? I am not sure how good I would be at convincing someone to go to a doctor, especially for people who feel stressed about time and money.

    • Rachel says:

      For a long time people who were trying to be helpful would say, if you just do {insert stock Primary answer here} you will feel better. The Church’s article was actually saying, “Don’t tell people to do those things because it doesn’t help.” And in my experience it often makes people only feel worse. I’m sorry if I offended. It wasn’t my intention.

      • spunky says:

        Thank you, Rachel- would you post the link to the article in the comments? I would really appreciate having that as a resource here. “Stock primary answers” can often be the most painful and guilt-inducing. I am really excited that a church reference suggests not doing that.

  14. Diane says:

    Rachel

    I know you weren’t intentionally trying to offend. No worries. Its’ just that people say things like that and they really do believe they are being helpful. In fact, the last time I was in church I was about to give my testimony, I was talking to a sister at church, I said I liked being first because of my issues with anxiety, completely the wrong thing to say because that is exactly what she said to me. You have read more, and that I didn’t have a relationship with God. Then she started shoving scripture in my face to support what she was saying to me. Mind you I never asked this sister for help, I was just merely stating how I deal with a stressful situation. I was needless to say pretty pissed off because I wasn’t asking for help. And all she did was destroy my testimony. When I said something to my Bishop he wouldn’t let me confront her and asked me not to speak about it. I was not cool with that at all. I didn’t tell her that I had issues with anxiety to ask her for help. I like to be first. It was at that moment that I decided to have my name removed.

    I’m not sure how you do suggest that to a family member. because each family is different. It might be more helpful to have a very good friend make the suggestion. Or perhaps hold an intervention.

  15. nat kelly says:

    Augh. Suicide is so terrible. It’s just horrible. We can’t rank suffering, of course, but I feel like experiencing suicide – whether you are the one who wants to die, or one of those around him/her – is a little hell all of it’s own.

    I think part of the reason we don’t talk about it much is because nobody knows what to do. It does NOT fit into our theology easily. It’s just a huge bundle of pain and confusion and questions and regrets. The Book of Mormon does not have the answers about it. The Ensign does not have the answers. It is just so big and so painful.

    I have known two people who actually succeeded in taking their own lives. One was a former boss, and even though I didn’t know him well, had never met his family, and hadn’t seen him for a few years, it hit me really hard. The funeral just felt so hopeless. Like there was all this pointless suffering, and why?

    The other person was one of my brother’s best friends who was also my first kiss, my first boyfriend, and my first love. He shot himself over two years ago. And it still devastates me. Sometimes I feel myself wanting to be angry at him. But…… how could I? He was a devout atheist. So he believed that, by taking his life, he was ending everything. How deep was his pain and pit of darkness to actually want that? How did we all fail him to such a degree that he was stuck so far down deep, where that was the only way he could see an out? Is there something we could have done? Should we have known? What if we had talked more? Would that have saved him?

    How, why, how, why, what if. We’ll never be able to answer these questions. There’s no chance to go back, no chance to right anything. We’re just left with pain and confusion and regret and terrible sadness. I hate it hate it hate it.

    There is absolutely a culture of silence about this in the LDS church. I have never heard anything about coping with this huge painful pit of suicide that appears in the lives of so many. I think that might be because we just don’t know what to do. But our silence is not only contributing to the pain of those who might want to take their own lives. It’s also making it impossible for the survivors and loved ones to cope.

    Blah. Obviously I’m still pretty distressed by this. I keep waiting for it to be a less sharp pain when I think about it.

    • spunky says:

      Thank you very much for your very personal comment, Nat Kelly. I am so sorry that you (very understandably) are feeling such anxiety over the losses of your former boss and first love. Your comments address a very important point- that people who we might think are no longer in our inner circle still love us, still think of us and still mourn our loss. It is a testament that no matter how far removed, we love the people in our personal history, even those who seem very far removed.

      I don’t mean to sound trite, but I really believe that these people know how much you care for them and would not wish you to blame yourself (how, why, what if) or feel pain when you think of them. I also believe that you will see them in the next life and be able to express this to them in person. In the meantime, I hope the pain lessens for you so you might have some peace. Thanks again, you have a strong heart.

    • Ziff says:

      I’m so sorry, Nat. I haven’t had anyone close to me commit suicide. I think you describe well why it’s such an awful experience.

      I recently read a book called The Suicide Index: Putting My Father’s Death in Order. The author expressed frustrations similar to those you’ve expressed. It might be worth a look.

  16. Quimby says:

    I was in high school before I heard someone dispute the idea that anyone who kills themselves goes to the telestial kingdom automatically. There was a family in my ward whose oldest son had committed suicide; and I think about all the times the rest of those siblings sat in Primary and Sunday School and heard the teachers say that anyone who kills themselves automatically goes to the telestial kingdom, and I cringe inside. The way it must have added to their burden of grief and sorrow.

    • spunky says:

      You bring up a very important point about the survivors, Quimby- thanks for doing that. It is painful to think of the family members who are not only dealing with the loss of an earthy family member, but the inconsiderate church members who remind them that the eternal family for them is no longer an option (something I adamantly disagree with). Thanks for reminding us of that.

  17. Anon for this one says:

    I have written and deleted several comments for this thread. Just over seven weeks ago, my wife committed suicide. I don’t have to ask myself, the Big Question. I know why she did; I just don’t know why now.

    She was abused terribly when she was younger, emotionally, physically, and sexually, starting when she was around two or three. Among her abusers was one of her bishops. Because of this abuse, she suffered severe trauma, which resulted in both PTSD and DID.

    She also had a constellation of medical problems, some of them related to the abuse, some of them not. Unlike other times in the past, this time her body simply could not recover from so many things all at once. A few weeks before she passed, my Home Teaching companion asked if she were getting better. I told him I didn’t think she was going to recover this time.

    She had tried suicide several times in the past, but this time was so different from the others that I thought it had to be a mistake. She had always tried to hide in her previous attempts, and she had always left a note. In our last conversation, I suggested that I come home early from work and take her to the ER and make them admit her and not release her until they had figured out her latest illness. I came home from work about an hour early, and she was sitting on the couch, like she was waiting for me to come get her. I did not find a note of any kind–for two weeks.

    She had left four short voice messsages on the voice memo app on her phone. In the first one, she said “I’m sorry–no I’m not.” It was to me like she had died all over again.

    She knew she was loved. We had been going to marriage counseling and our relationship was better than it had been for years. She had several close friends who saw her nearly every day. We had a supportive bishop. But the combination of her chronic pain, its attendant sleeplessness, and the nightmares of her past when she could sleep, all got her to the point where she believed she couldn’t take it any more. Looking back, I understand where she was, and I don’t blame her.

    Because the circumstances were so different this time from all others, I had convinced myself and everyone around me that it was accidental. I’ve only told two other persons about the voice messages. I want everyone who knew and loved her to believe it was an accident because of all the baggage around the word “suicide.”

    A couple of days after she passed, the little girl she had adopted as her own came to her mother and said “She’s clean, she’s clean!” When asked what she meant, this two-year old girl explained to her mother that my wife had come to her in her sleep to say “bye-bye” and that she was clean. I believe that.

    I am still left with my guilt. What if I had come home from work two hours early, instead of just one? Or if I had come home immediately after our conversation? Would that have made a difference, or would it just have postponed the inevitable? I envy that little girl who got to say good-bye, while I am stuck with a voice memo that says she’s not sorry.

    Thanks for this post. Even though I don’t know anyone in the Bloggernacle in real life, discussions like this one have helped me deal a little better with my loss.

  18. spunky says:

    Anon for this one,
    Words cannot express how I feel after reading this. Thank you for sharing here. I am so very sorry for your loss and wish I had words that would or could help. I won’t make useless suggestions for you, but please know that I understand a degree of your guilt (I lost a friend to suicide). I also know that it is not your fault. Sometimes people feel the need to go “home”; it has nothing to do with you and does not mean that they don’t love you. Thank you for telling two close friends the truth of her passing. I hope you can find the love and support that you need at this time in them and in others around you.

  19. Maureen says:

    Anon for this one,

    I am sorry for your loss, but thank you so much for posting this. As someone who has suffered similarly enough as your wife to make difficult for those who live with me, your post really touched me and gave me hope for myself. I really saw your love for her, and that you tried so hard for her. I know I can’t speak for her, but if it were me what you did would have been the difference between having life be an unbearable hell and having something worth suffering through it all. And I would understand if she meant that she was sorry for the pain she would inflict in leaving but not sorry to have her own pain end (or not sorry enough to prevent). Thank you for not blaming her, and please have compassion on yourself when you feel like blaming yourself (with the what ifs).

    This entire discussion has been so difficult for me, but I can’t seem to pull myself away either. As some one who has been to the point of just wanting all the pain to go away, I have some pretty strong opinions on this topic. I just haven’t found the strength or control to express them. But at your comment Anon I just find myself balling and unable to not say anything.

    I do not sense you trying to distance yourself from her or what occurred as I have seen with so many others. I have been envious and indignant to see others find relief and comfort after the passing on of those with chronic physical illness while the death of those who suffer perpetual mental, emotional, and spiritual agony is treated as something sinful or leprous. As with those who have died for other reasons, why can’t we simply mourn for the loss that they are not in and adding to OUR LIVES in the way we enjoyed before while rejoicing that they are free of the pain this mortal coil brought them? Your comment Anon, is the closest I have seen to this.

    I’m sorry if my thoughts have been unclear, overwhelming, or accusatory. This all just brings up a lot of pain for me. Those who suffer should be loved, in life and in death. Those who suffer with those who suffer should be loved to and love themselves. I’m going to start rambling…

    • Kmillecam says:

      It’s okay if your thoughts are unclear or overwhelming, and I don’t see any accusations. I’m so glad that you felt safe here to share what you have been going through. I hope you can feel the love I am sending to you.

  20. anon says:

    This summer it will be 20 years since my most nearly-completed suicide attempt. I still think about it every day, and every day I wish it had worked. But I can’t talk about it with anyone–it would make people who care about me sad, and it’s not exactly the sort of thing one talks about with people who _don’t_ care.

    • Aimee says:

      Dear Anon,
      I’m so sorry to hear about this abiding pain in your life and the isolation it has caused. As one who has been close to people who have felt similarly to what you describe, I can tell you that I would rather be sad *with* a loved one who is struggling, than to think they were suffering alone or to lose them all-together. I hope you can find a trusted soul to share yourself with and that this life-long heartache you’ve carried alone can become a passage that binds you to those who (undoubtedly) love you and as you let them in.

      Wishing you peace . . .

      • anon says:

        Thanks, Aimee. Most of the time it’s wondrously enough to know I have friends who would be willing to be sad with me if I asked them to.

    • annon says:

      I think I might know how you feel. I seriously considered killing myself a few years back. I had it all planned out and wrote a note but someone intervened. I ended up in a mental ward for a few weeks, which did not help, and then had to go back to pretending everything is fine. I still think about killing myself almost every day and know that I have no one who understands how I can feel that way.
      I tried to talk to a few different friends about it but they didn’t understand. One even got mad at me over it, which I don’t understand. I live in a very nice Mormon community but I feel VERY ALONE! My husband doesn’t understand and I think he thinks I use it to manipulate him so; I can’t talk to him either. My sisters helped out with my kids while I was in the mental ward but we have never talked about why I was there. They even came to visit me there, but we didn’t talk about it! Everyone just pretends that it never happened.
      I don’t take anti-depressants anymore because I am afraid it will keep me from getting a job. I just finished my BS in secondary education, and I am hoping to get a teaching position soon. I also feel like they are only a fake happiness or band-aid and not a cure.
      Sometimes I just feel so homesick but I don’t know what for. I grew up in an abusive home and ended up in the foster care system when I was 12, so there is really nothing/ no place over which to be homesick. I just feel so worthless and so much pain in my chest that death seems preferable. Then I feel guilty because people say, “How could you do that to your kids?”I think it might help to have someone to talk to but I have no one who understands and won’t try to make me feel more guilty than I already do. So I don’t do anything but try to ride it out and hope that I can keep all my feelings hid from everyone and suffer in silence.

      • Amelia says:

        Annon,

        I am so sorry that this has been your experience. Please know that there are those out there who understand and who can be the kind of listening ear, without inducing guilt, you need. I know because I have been there myself and I was fortunate enough to find this kind of person. I had sympathetic friends and family members, but it wasn’t until I got myself into treatment that I found a space where I could truly say anything and everything and have it heard with no judgment, no condemnation–just acceptance and compassion. And my doctor was able to help me achieve enough clarity that I have not had a recurrence of the urge to hurt myself for a long time–about two years now. It was not easy to find my doctor and I don’t want to pretend it was. I saw seven different doctors in the space of a year. But I knew I couldn’t handle it on my own anymore, that I had to find someone who I could talk to and who could help me so I kept trying. I am so glad I did. I live in a different place now and I don’t see my doctor every week as I did for two years. But I see him anytime I go home to visit my parents. And he’s just an email or a phone call away when I really need him.

        I also take an antidepressant and have for about three years now. It is one of the best things I have done. I’ve felt like you in the past–that it was just a bandaid, not a solution. I agree that an anti-depressant alone is not the answer. I would not be as healthy as I am now with just the anti-depressant; I needed my therapy with my doctor, too. But I know the anti-depressant helps because I’ve experimented with reducing dosage and different medications and have seen how my body responds better to some medicines at certain doses than others. I’d encourage you to be open to that option. It’s really important to understand that depression is a physical illness–it’s not just an emotional or spiritual state. Depression is caused, at least in significant part, by chemical imbalances. Just as we would never tell someone with a life-threatening case of pneumonia to suck it up and get themselves better by being cheerful, we shouldn’t tell that to someone who deals with depression. Also, we would never expect someone who had dealt with a life altering disease (say something like malaria) to run out and be fully up to speed the day after they’re released from the hospital. I have a dear friend who discontinued her anti-depressants as soon as she felt better. And she relapsed back into depression. The reality is that depression, like malaria, is a disease that may be with you the rest of your life. I experimented with going off my anti-depressant this spring. I’m back at the full dosage because my body did not respond well to cutting back and I didn’t like how that affected my ability to function.

        At this point, I expect to be on my medication indefinitely. And that is completely fine with me. I used to worry that it would make me different–less me. The opposite has been the case. As it, and my therapy with my doctor, has helped me because more stable, I have felt myself become more and more true to who I am, more able to embrace life and all it offers (both good and bad) as myself. And people who know and love me have seen the same thing. The medication creates a stable base for me. It doesn’t eliminate ups and downs (a medication that works for you shouldn’t completely eliminate ups and downs); it just makes them slightly less extreme and more manageable.

        For what it’s worth, I started an amazing job a year ago. I doubt my employer looked into my medical history, but I don’t think it would have affected their hiring decision one way or another if they had known. I honestly believe that seeking medical help for an acknowledged medical condition will not prevent your finding a job. In fact, I think it will likely make finding a job easier because that medical care can make managing daily life easier which can only be a good thing for how you do interviewing for and actually performing a job.

        I am so sorry you feel the way you do, especially like you have to hide it all the time. I don’t think these things we can talk about with just anyone. Sometimes we can’t even talk about them with the people who love us the most. But it is something you can and should talk about with someone. I hope you’re able to find a doctor or therapist who can help you. I wish I could do more than write this big long comment. Just know that you’re not alone, that there are others out there who have felt like you do. And that there is hope for making things better a little bit at a time.

      • Kmillecam says:

        Annon,
        I just wanted to say that I’m sitting with you and hear you. I loved Amelia’s response here, and don’t want to interject too much since I haven’t experienced this myself. But I do have a close family member recently on anti-depressants and it has made a big difference in their life (they have even recently changed jobs and it helped them immensely).

        Also, it sounds like you are really in it. I feel like this comment is your way of reaching out to us where it’s safe. Please call 1-800-273-TALK if you are feeling suicidal, and please know that there are people who care about how you are feeling. I care, and I want to know how you are doing. Take care of yourself, you are worth it.

      • spunky says:

        Annon,
        Thanks for sharing your voice with us. I can relate to some things you mention, but not to all. That is a isolating thing for me, and everyone– no one really knows inside what it is truly like 100% to be you. And not talking about it makes it even harder. It sounds like life has been very unfair to you.

        I have no advice to offer that you haven’t heard before. But I will share something that floored me once… it was in a relief society class year ago. And the teacher was talking about feeling homesick… and I listened because I felt homesick, but not for my childhood home. For heaven’s sake, even when I was a teenager in high school, I felt homesick and I didn’t know why! So this RS teacher shared that she felt like that homesick feeling was the feeling we have in missing our Heavenly Parents and our homes in the pre-exsistance. I don’t know if that is right or wrong, but I decided to accept that. And it felt good to me, somehow feeling like I was a good enough spirit daughter that I was still in tune with my premortal life. You are not alone in feeling this homesickness. You are not alone.

  21. Diane says:

    Anon

    I understand exactly what you talking about, I think about my own attempt and the reasons why I almost did it daily as well. And quite honestly it makes me very angry. Please, Please do find someone, I know how much it hurts not to be able to talk to someone about things that are really bothering you. I was talking to a friend of mind this morning about one of the most frustrating things for me is listening to other people talk about what is bothering them, but, then when its’ my turn, they tell me that if I just stop talking about it I’d be much happier . This does not help.. It only creates more feelings of isolation. There are many things in my life that many people can’t understand( Like the toll of growing up in the foster care system) I don’t think people set off to intentionally shut us down, they just don’t know how or what to do with the information. Often, I really don’t want them to do anything but listen. But, many people don’t know how.

  22. Anon for this one says:

    Maureen,

    I think I know some of what you are talking about. We had to leave one area because the Church members thought she was faking her mental health issues. When the people here could see the physical pain, needing to be in a wheelchair and on oxygen, they could sympathize with her condition and understand her pain. But her emotional pain was no less than the physical. I have had some people express surprise/admiration that I stayed with her even when it could be easy to leave. But what else could I do? Why would I leave? Why do I still want to protect her name? I loved her. There was no other choice. I take some consolation that she is free from pain-all of it, the physical, the emotional, the mental, the spiritual. As I said earlier, I believe she is clean. The Atonement can give her comfort now, where she once suffered so badly.
    And yet I miss her terribly.

  23. CatherineWO says:

    This discussion brings up so many memories and deep feelings from my experience with my son and also my own personal experience with chronic illness. Anon for this one…my heart aches for you. You set such an example of true charity in your relationship with your wife. I am so sorry that it has ended in such sorrow. Your great love for her is evident in your ability to accept her decision, but that doesn’t make it any less painful for you.

    Diane–You were treated so badly by your church leaders. I have been through a similar experience in the past few years because of health/disability issues and I understand why you left the church. It was probably the only way you could protect yourself. I too have had to cut off most contact with my local ward.

    I have just a few thoughts to add–things that I have learned in dealing with suicide. When our son was suicidal, we had him committed to a mental hospital against his will (he was an adult). It was the most horrible experience of my life. It was only the beginning of a very long road that seems to have no end. I am thankful for doctors and nurses and therapists that have helped along the way. Medication and ongoing therapy make it possible for him to hold a job and be a husband and father, but it will always be a struggle for him. Sometimes he just needs a listening ear and understanding heart (non-judgemental), so we (his parents) try to be that for him. He also has a wonderful wife who understands the struggle from her own family experience.

    Another thing I’ve learned is that if a person reaches the point that she/he is really determined to end it all with suicide, there is very little anyone else can do to stop them. I think perhaps we need to respect the person involved as the only one who really knows how unbearable the suffering has become. Though we should do all we can to prevent suicide and ease the pain that brings a person to that point, I agree with Maureen that once a person has died by suicide we should try to rejoice with them that they are free of the pain that life brought, just as we would for a person who dies of any chronic and painful illness.

    Suicide is hard to talk about simply because it is so painful and only raises questions with no clear answers. This discussion has helped me see it from some different perspectives. Thank you.

  24. Mike H. says:

    To me, that statement reads like something an evangelical would say.

    Often, I heard statements from Church members that sound like they are Scientologists, i.e., that there is no mental illness, but just people who have not trained their minds. Garbage. I also hear “you can’t be tempted above what you can endure” being applied to mental illness, & thus, suicides. But, how many such member would not seek medical treatment for cancer or diabetes? Is that very objective?

    The Church needs to train it’s Leaders better about mental illness. I’m not saying to make Bishops or RS Presidents Professional Therapists, but give them better training what to say, & what not to say. Yes, this may take some resources to do, but it will pay off, with a few less inactive members (see above posts by others!), fewer suicides of members, etc.

    SAD is real. PTSD is real. PGAD, Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder, while rare, is real, and can also make people suicidal over the constant sexually aroused feelings, even among non-members. Autism is real. Schizophrenia is real.

    We had to leave one area because the Church members thought she was faking her mental health issues.

    Too bad that too many think that if they can’t “see” a problem, then it’s not real. Yet, if someone gets a radiation dose of 1000 REMs from “unseen” radiation, it WILL kill them.

    And, I’ve been on Paxil for 18 years, and I will likely be on it for life. It’s not a crutch, but a medicine. I hate to think what shape I’d been in if I was not medicated. I can see where someone who needs such meds who didn’t get them would commit suicide.

    • spunky says:

      Thanks for commenting, Mike H. I absolutely agree that Paxil is just as important in prolonging life as is insulin. I am also grateful for your example of taking it steadily and studiously, rather than going off and on as many people do, and creating an even larger problem as a result. I esteem your wisdom in regard to this very much. Thank you for sharing.

  25. Squashy says:

    I came here to find out what would happen to me if I commit suicide. I only started coming to the Church in June and got baptized in July. I had hoped that I would be able to find peace but the pain is unbearable. I have had an eating disorder since the age of eight and I can no longer cope with the struggle every meal time. I am selfish yes but exhausted from weeks of throwing up, sleepless nights, self harm and panic attacks. This was my first fast sunday on August 7th and probably my last. I can’t continue like this for much longer.

    • Starfoxy says:

      Squashy- I’m so sorry for all the pain you’re dealing with.
      For your ED I might recommend reading the excellent series on Eating disorders at Zelophehad’s daughters.
      Like Sean said below “The gospel does not “cure” mental health issues; it is an aid to coping.” I would really encourage you to seek out help from some professional counselors, if you need help your Bishop should be able to set you up with resources.

      • Squashy says:

        Sorry I took so long to make my way back here Starfoxy. I guess by returning to this site it shows I am still thinking about suicide. Anxiety gripped me earlier so that I could hardly breathe or swallow. I was choking and crying at the same time. Yet I am still here. Still fighting for recovery from this impossible situation and still feeling trapped. Reading this article again and the responses has helped a little. I feel calmer. Maybe I should add that to my testimony. Please pray for me. Much love to all that suffer and to all those who comment here intending to help.

    • spunky says:

      Squashy,
      Thank you so much for commenting here. I am glad you are searching for peace; please don’t give up. Peace is one of the most difficult things to master- it is something I need to work on every day, and some days, I am just too tired to work at it. I hope you speak to your bishop or your relief society president- or anyone, who can help you to find a person or a group that can help you find your peace. There are choices to help you in your search, no one answer fits everyone. But I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are important, beautiful and unique, and I would love for you to continue to participate in this community as we all search for our personal path for peace. Your voice is important, and you are welcome and wanted here.

    • Kmillecam says:

      Squashy, it doesn’t have to continue like this. It can get better and there are people that can help. It really can change, but I know it’s so hard if you are at that place of wanting to die. Please don’t give up. We’re here listening to you, and we hear you and care about you. You can heal your life, and there are so many people that can help. Like Starfoxy said, there are counselors that your bishop can set up for you through LDS family services. And if you are in an emergency situation, please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, or just call 911. We don’t want to lose you, you are worth saving.

      • Squashy says:

        Sorry I took so long to return I have looked at the replies I got and even though earlier I was sorely tempted reading this blog again and the kind replies helped me tonight. Thanks Kmillecam. I don’t feel the Bishop cares at all about me. I was baptized in July yet no visiting teachers or home teachers have been sent to me. I don’t even know who they are. I have had three lessons with the ward missionaries who I love very much. They are strong beautiful women who try their best. I asked Bishop who my teachers would be two weeks ago and he said he didnt know. Not exactly a queue of people hustling and bustling to see me. I don’t blame them really I wouldn’t want to visit me either.

      • Alisa says:

        Squashy, I can relate. I have had VT come maybe 10 times over my 144 months in Relief Society. It has given me all kinds of different thoughts about why this is. And home teaching is more sparse. I think it is a real struggle for people to do it in my ward. too bad we are not neighbors. We could visit teach each other!

      • spunky says:

        I can relate, Squashy– I was having a hard time once, and asked the Relief Society president for visiting teachers.She told me that it was selfish of me to ask for them…. and gave me a list of things I should be doing for others. Uh, not helpful. Since then, I asked to NOT be visit taught, because I hated the idea of being rejected every month. NOT being on the list made me feel more in charge somehow.

        That being said, if you need visiting teachers, call your bishop and ask for them. Tell him that you need them to come every month. I can’t promise that they will come, some people just don’t “get” it… but you can always email me. 🙂

      • kmillecam says:

        Squashy, I’m so glad that you wrote to us again 🙂 I’m sorry that the VTing isn’t working out for you. It’s very difficult to feel alone in that way, especially when you are feeling like you could really use the support. Have you been able to find anyone for some counseling or group therapy? When I was in therapy I found it very hard to make myself go, but once I was there I would never regret it.

    • Amelia says:

      Squashy, I am so sorry you’re hurting. I wish I could say or do something that would make that hurt disappear. But having dealt with mental illness of my own, I know there is no easy thing to say that will make it better. I hope you’ll reach out to someone who can help you, whether a suicide hotline or your bishop or RS president. I know that things can look bleak when you’re at the bottom looking up; but I also know that there are ways to work up from that depth, to find more peace and happiness. Please don’t hesitate to turn to us and our community for any help we can provide and to ask those around you for help, too.

    • Alisa says:

      Squashy, I am so sorry for your daily/hourly struggle with ED. Please know you are not alone. Please know that it is OK to not fast–ever again. For those of us who have suffered with ED or SI, fasting can be such a trigger (Starfoxy has linked to some great posts on this very thing). It is OK to eventually dedicate a “fast” in other non-self-hurting ways when you are ready. I know someone who cannot physically fast, so she fasts from the Internet for some of the day. First, focus on healing yourself, taking care of yourself. So many people cannot fast for so many reasons: sickness, metabolism, pregnancy/nursing, etc. It’s totally OK.

      Sending you positive, healing vibes through the ether. Please know it will be so much better in the future. Like others, I strongly recommend counseling and medication. Also a support network of close friends you can call is something to build over time.

      • Squashy says:

        Thanks Alisa I managed the last fast sunday with a struggle and much prayer. I am still here. I would not be without the church.

  26. Sean Brotherson says:

    Hi, I do not have much time to respond on this topic today, but would indicate that it is a very important topic. I am the author of one of the articles you designate in the Ensign magazine, have a PhD in human development and family relations, and have worked extensively with the topic and my state’s suicide prevention task force. I also serve as an LDS bishop.

    Suicide is a very complex topic. It is commonly due to a multiplicity of factors and varies by individual and context. The gospel of Jesus Christ can be very helpful to individuals in coping, but most individuals who attempt suicide or complete suicide are dealing with significant mental health stresses or challenges. The gospel does not “cure” mental health issues; it is an aid to coping. Living the gospel does not make one immune from mental health difficulties.

    There are additional resources beyond those that you have listed for depression, suicide, and other topics from an LDS perspective. They are not as commonly known as they should be. One is a good book on the topic from an LDS perspective from the Hidden Treasures Foundation. I myself wrote a 3- or 4-part series on the topic for Meridian Magazine, one of the largest online resources for the LDS community. There are a number of good books on loss and mourning for the LDS community which have chapters on suicide. Elder Alexander B. Morrison wrote a book on dealing with mental health issues which is very good. Not enough has been done to gather such resources in a single place and make them well known. There is also a Church resource on suicide for ecclesiastical leaders; which is also not well known.

    Resources dealing specifically with suicide, versus resources dealing with precursors to suicide (depression, mental health concerns, abuse, etc.), are not the same and there are many more resources on the latter topics. Also, LDS folks should feel completely free to take advantage of the vast multitude of high-quality resources on the topic from a plethora of mental health sources. I have counseled members dealing with suicide-related concerns to participate in local grief support groups for the topic – they are just as beneficial, from my view, as a group that would be specific to our faith community.

    Again, I apologize for not addressing the issue more extensively in this forum, but would be willing to do more if I can be helpful. God bless all who have dealt with this tragedy in their lives.

    • Amelia says:

      Sean, thank you so much for your comment. None of us are mental health professionals and it is good to get your perspective. I especially appreciate your pointing out that the Gospel can help us cope with mental illness, but it cannot cure it. I know the good that faith can do in our lives, but I also know that we need to make use of the incredible resources that God has made available to us in the shape of medical treatment, support groups, therapy, etc. Thank you for reminding us of that.

    • Diane says:

      Sean
      I don’t dispute what you say, however, the problem isn’t that there is a plethora of mental heath services.(I think this might actually vary state by state) The problem is actually being to access these services.

      Case in point, even though I had mental health services attached as a carve out benefit to my health insurance I was not allowed to use them until I actually hurt myself. Which I actually did(I know that’s sic) but, since I had no one else to advocate for me this is exactly what I had to do to get the services that I desperately needed

  27. Squashy says:

    Much love joy and peace to all those who contributed to the comments in this blog and to Spunky who wrote it. I had a terrible struggle earlier but feel calmer now after rereading this. I know I am not alone.

  28. Alisa says:

    Yea! I am glad you came back and commented again. I am so sorry for your struggle, but keep fighting! YOU are worth it! Much love. X

  29. Katy says:

    I’m glad I found this blog. It’s been helpful to ‘hear’ the different perspectives, ideas & support, & to have some feelings/thoughts validated that were against what I’ve been told.
    I’m in a unique situation where my teenage son, my husband & I all have bipolar. So I have been on both sides -the one feeling the deep depression, as well as the one on the outside trying to help them break out of it.
    I was a single mom, active in the church, raising my BP son & helping a loved one fight but lose the battle w/ cancer. I was strong but naturally started having signs of depression, even though I knew the man I lost was in a far better place, & finally feeling good. Believing there is something great after death is a real benefit, but you still miss the person. But what abt after suicide?
    I became good friends w/ an agnostic man who really cared abt people. It turned out he’d had Depression abt 10 yrs & had made a plan to commit suicide in 5yrs. I think he’d been thinking abt it the whole time. I tried 2 give him the love he showed others & to give him hope, to lead to faith & conversion. He fell in love w/ me & decided to live & be happily married.
    We’ve been married now for 6 yrs & he’s been suicidal off & on for the last 1 1/2 yrs. He finally attempted it 2 weeks ago, but many ‘coincidences’ caused him to be found before it was completed. He then was in the psych hospital only a week, which was the max for their crisis facility. They sent him back home w/ new meds & an appt w/ a new Dr. He’s disappointed that he messed it up, (no credit to God’s plan) but more disappointed that no one supports him in his decision to go when he wants. He now says he won’t try anything again if I would pick a date he can kill himself. & he wants me to be there holding his hand when he does it!
    I see his pain, & his loneliness from no one supporting him. I want him to be happy, but I think suicide has been something he’s looked forward to for too long now, almost 17 yrs I think. I don’t know if anyone or anything can get him to change his thinking, to see a reason to live. He won’t even live for me. He thinks I’m being selfish & unreasonable for wanting him to stay in misery, making life miserable for the family. & I’m starting to think he’s right. & hating myself for that thought. Those conflicting thoughts, and seeing his pain, while I have 2 get ready for my son’s graduation a week from Fri, & planning for what’s next for him is too much & I’m only managing to work & keep up w/ our meds. But my neglect of everything else has caused me to lose health coverage so I won’t even be able to refill my meds! Then what? I have to hold it together but I’m watching everything crumble around me. I’ve got friends, RS, HT & bishop praying & fasting for me/us. I’m praying, reading scriptures, listening 2 good music but I’m still crashing. I won’t hurt myself but I might shut down & be incapable to do anything. I can’t hold his hand while he does it, nor can I choose a date. But would it be ok to have him decide when, then just turn a blind eye until he’s found dead? I don’t know if I can even handle that.
    Thanks ahead of time for feedback.

  1. November 20, 2011

    […] Resources for Mormons Posted on November 20, 2011 by April Note: Spunky’s excellent post, Mormons and Suicide, has brought to our attention the need for suicide prevention resources for Mormons. Spunky wisely […]

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