"Hope" and "Help" are two of the most important words when it comes to dealing with the often debilitating challenges of mental and emotional illnesses.
"Hope and help go together," said Ardeth G. Kapp, former Young Women general president. "We have more hope if we know there is help."
Help is the purpose of the Mental Health Resource Foundation, which Sister Kapp, one of a dozen board members, described as a non-profit support organization that operates on Church principles and emphasizes spiritual healing through the Savior. The foundation has created an online library, MentalHealthLibrary.info, that has quickly accessible information as well as extensive resources. It has links to advice from Church leaders and mental health professionals. Its subjects include:
Abuse, Addictions, Aging, Anxiety and Stress, Bipolar, Codependency, Depression, Disabilities and Syndromes, Divorce and Blended Families, Eating Disorders, Marriage, Mental Illness (general), Parenting and Family, Pornography Addiction, Same-Gender Attraction, Schizophrenia, Sexual Concerns (general), Suicide and Death, and Wellness and Prevention.
Secular, faith community and LDS sources are available. The site has links to other related sites, including those sponsored by the Church and other agencies. The foundation has seven published handbooks and overview references on general subjects that include coping with suicide, mental health concerns and addictions, including pornography. The foundation also has a speaker's bureau to help educate others on the realities of mental illnesses and to offer hope for caregivers.
Sister Kapp is one of a dozen of the foundation's executive board members that include four General Authority emeriti. One of these is Elder Joe J. Christensen, who said, "Our mission is to increase personal and family wellness, and decrease the burdens of mental illness, addictions and emotional problems."
"It is quite surprising," he continued. "These problems have no boundaries. The problems can exist in any family and in any setting. People whom we may think have no problems in the world, often do.
"There probably isn't an extended family in or out of the Church that doesn't have somebody with some of these problems," he said.
The problems are not limited to English-speaking populations either, so the foundation has translated materials into Spanish and Portuguese.
"We want to make sure what we do is in harmony with LDS Family Services, and that everything we do meets Church doctrines and principles," he said.
According to their information: suicide is the third leading cause of death for young adults, one in four families in the United States have someone with mental illness, some 80 percent of the 13-14 year-olds are exposed to pornography, and 10 percent of adults in America have a substance abuse addiction. He said percentages of young males and men in the Church who are addicted to pornography is alarming.
Elder Rulon G. Craven, a retired General Authority on the board, said: "What we found is that ecclesiastical leaders, including bishops and stake presidents, have difficulty in handling these situations. So we are trying to create the resources to help them.
"The growth of the Internet and the decline of morals in society leading to pornography and other challenges ... give our program direction to help people overcome these problems."
He said people from more than 70 countries have accessed the foundation's free Internet library.
"The Internet is a delivery system to get resources out quickly at no cost."
Sister Kapp observed, "In a sense, either directly or indirectly, we all feel like we want to be caregivers. If we were just better prepared or had the resources, or material to which we could refer, then it magnifies the resources to address the growing problems."
The site is not just for Latter-day Saints; it provides information also for clergy of any faith, and for women as well as men. Among the sources are the National Institute of Mental Health, Alcoholics Anonymous, BYU, the Church's Family Services, Ensign and Church News, the Distribution Center and many others. In addition, some Church resources, including a recent pamphlet on pornography addiction, are online.
Part of the mission of the foundation is to educate members that many aspects of mental illness require treatment, just as do diabetes or other physical illnesses.
"As we understand, we become part of the solution rather than adding to the sense of isolation," said Sister Kapp. "We have to accept that depression is an acceptable illness and that there are resources to help. That, itself, opens the door to acceptance and resolution."
"There are levels in each of these areas of illness," she said. "We don't need to treat them all as crises, but if we can recognize (the problem) initially and address it, the probability of resolution is better."
Rick D. Hawks is a psychologist who helped start the foundation and who helped write the books, though credited simply as "Dr. Rick." He said that in his practice, he often has a collection of illnesses that include depression, divorce, suicide, addictions and family problems.
"Now all of this happens in a bishop's office," he said. "Our major objective is to let people know there are resources that can be helpful."
As mental and emotional illnesses have increased, "the more we have who are willing to carry the load, the better. And there is no reason to believe that these problems are going to decrease."
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