Why working at Deseret Industries helped a former stake president heal from depression

Michael Dayley has been a lot of things in his life — missionary, husband, father, bishop, stake president, manager and supervisor. Twice, he was a patient in the mental health unit of a hospital.

What helped him finally overcome that severe depression was job training at Deseret Industries. Working hard, learning self-reliance and setting goals led him to finally being able to heal and to fulfill his dream to serve a senior couple mission with his wife, Susan.

Michael Dayley spoke to the Church News from Palmyra, New York, where he and his wife have been serving a mission since November 2021. “I look out my window and see the Sacred Grove,” he said. “We were so thrilled to be called here.”

From always busy, to nothing

Living in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Dayleys raised six children and Dayley was a manager and supervisor for a media company. He was also busy with Church callings, including bishop and stake president.

Around the same time he was released as stake president, his company was sold. He was laid off, which he said was traumatic. He went from having huge responsibilities to sitting at home with nothing to do. That marked the start of struggles with his mental health.

Seeking something to do, he and his wife saw an opportunity to move to Logan, Utah. 

Michael and Susan Dayley at a family reunion during the time they received their mission call to Palmyra, New York. They have six children and 18 grandchildren.
Michael and Susan Dayley at a family reunion during the time they received their mission call to Palmyra, New York. They have six children and 18 grandchildren. Credit: Michael Dayley

“When we got there, I got a nice job, and I was working, but my mental illness was just getting worse and worse. I couldn’t function,” he said. 

In July 2019 he checked himself into the mental health unit of Logan Regional Hospital. He spent five days there. That October he had a setback and stayed for a longer period in the hospital. He felt he and his wife had been inspired to move to Logan so he could meet the doctors he needed and get help. 

Susan Dayley said those times were frightening. She worked hard to help him take his medications for his physical and mental health, visited him in the hospital and searched for the right treatments. She also went with him to get a priesthood blessing that changed their lives. 

After that, Michael Dayley said: “I finally accepted the fact that it wasn’t me, it was that I had a health illness. When I accepted that, I started making progress.”

Going to work at Deseret Industries

Michael Dayley realized that even though he was retired and he was fine financially, he still needed to work. “The point the doctors made when I was in the mental unit was: ‘You need to be busy. You can’t sit there and let your mind run you; you’ve got to run your mind.’”

Michael Dayley takes a self-portrait during summer 2021 on the receiving dock of Deseret Industries in Logan, Utah.
Michael Dayley takes a self-portrait during summer 2021 on the receiving dock of Deseret Industries in Logan, Utah. Credit: Michael Dayley

In December 2019, he got a job through the Deseret Industries internship program in the cafeteria of the Logan Utah Temple. 

“During that period I was going to the temple every day. All I saw was people in the temple and served them and helped them,” said Michael Dayley.

But in March 2020, temples closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Michael Dayley tried to work at home fixing everything he could find, but he was starting to drift back into depression again.

So he asked if he could work at the Deseret Industries thrift store and donation center in Logan. 

“I’ve been the boss, and I told them I just wanted to work,” he said. “Two weeks into being there, they made me the lead on the dock. And it helped me refocus on what I do well. It helped me be me again.”

‘They let me excel’

“Every day we helped young people understand what it is to work, and work hard. We worked every day on the dock through the hot sun and snow,” he said. 

He saw change in others and change in himself as he learned self-reliance and taught self-reliance. “The spirit of Deseret Industries, with a prayer every morning, no swear words, no smoking, and dealing with people who are trying to change their lives — it just raised me.”

Michael Dayley drives a forklift at Deseret Industries in Logan, Utah, just after being certified as a forklift operator in 2020.
Michael Dayley drives a forklift at Deseret Industries in Logan, Utah, just after being certified as a forklift operator in 2020. Credit: Michael Dayley

In his past career, he had been the one disciplining employees. But one day, Michael Dayley was moving pallets and they slipped because he had not been following procedure. And he got written up for the first time in his life.

“It was wonderful; they were so professional, and so nice,” he said. “My point is, they didn’t treat me special, they let me excel through their program.” 

As part of the program, he had to set goals. And his goal was to go on a mission with his wife. He continued therapy and treatment for his mental health, and he got his Type 2 diabetes levels down so his physical health would be ready as well.

During a family reunion in late summer 2021, the Dayleys got an email with their mission call to serve as temple missionaries in Palmyra. They will be there for 17 months.

Staying busy

Michael Dayley cleans a headstone in update New York in order to photograph it for BillionGraves.com.
Michael Dayley cleans a headstone in update New York in order to photograph it for BillionGraves.com. Credit: Michael Dayley

In Palmyra, the Dayleys work six or seven shifts in the temple each week. They clean the temple. They serve at the Church’s distribution center. They volunteer for BillionGraves by taking pictures of headstones and recording the information. Every Sunday they drive 50 miles to meet with a branch in upstate New York.

“You feel so good when you are needed. Every day we are busy. That makes such a difference,” he said. “I appreciate that some people can sit in a chair and read, but I have to be busy.”

Michael Dayley’s doctor in Logan keeps in contact and makes sure he is doing well. He gives a lot of credit to the brain treatments he received from Dr. William Green in Syracuse, Utah. He also is so thankful for his wife, Susan; his sister, Barbara, and a special friend for all watching out for him.

“Some of those dark days were terrible. I couldn’t get out of bed. I’m glad those days are behind me,” he said.

He wants to make sure everyone knows, “Don’t give up.” Dark days will get better. Self-reliance, going to work and setting goals changed his life, and he knows it can do the same for others, too.

Read more: How Deseret Industries looks at products — and people — without labels