Bringing attention to mental health can cut through shame, normalize challenges and help those who are struggling.
At the same time, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can build emotional resilience and take charge of their mental health, explained Sherilyn C. Stinson, the commissioner of Family Services for the Church.
“If an individual can discover the power of partnering with the Lord Jesus Christ, I have learned, there is nothing that they cannot overcome,” said Stinson, who is a licensed clinical social worker.
Stinson joined the Church News podcast during Mental Health Awareness Month. She explained that failure to care for mental health can lead to disruptions in many aspects of daily life — including relationships, school, work and spirituality.
Just like caring for physical health is important, caring for mental, emotional and behavioral health is necessary for a rich and meaningful life, she said.
“Change is possible. Change is absolutely possible and that should give everyone hope. There is hope in the healing power of [the Savior’s] Atonement,” Stinson said. “And knowing that in time that all of these things that give us pain and distress will be taken from us.”
How to know when to get help
A number of Church leaders have spoken in general conferences relative to mental health, including Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his October 2013 talk, “Like a Broken Vessel.”
Discouragement, struggles and sadness are a part of this mortal journey and a normal state of being human. But a keyword is “function,” Stinson said.
“How well am I functioning? Is this interfering with my ability to do my daily responsibilities?” she said. “Other things are maybe a loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable or meaningful to you.”
If someone cannot access those things that should bring them happiness, that’s an indication that he or she may benefit from extra help or talking to someone.
Stinson said things like grief and loss can become clinical depression if left untreated. And anxiety disorders can require intervention.
The General Handbook instructs leaders to seek professional resources when they are needed.
Counseling or therapy can help members understand and respond to life’s challenges in healthy ways, Stinson said, and it can be a sign of humility and strength rather than weakness.
At the same time, she cautioned about being wise consumers of counseling — meaning Church members should seek someone who is licensed, has expertise and who will respect their values. A therapist or counselor should also help the person to build resilience and self-reliance and not dependency on counseling.
Resources and ways that help
- Finding Strength in the Lord: Emotional Resilience
- Addiction recovery groups
- Spouse and family support groups
- Strengthening Marriages and Families courses
- Family Services counseling
- Family Services consultations for leaders
- Life Help resources
When Stinson was a young mother, her doctor recognized that she was depressed — he explained that her brain chemistry was not functioning well at the time. Her doctor suggested she use an antidepressant for a few months.
“I noticed I started to see color again, and I didn’t realize I had been living in the gray,” Stinson said. “It wasn’t a longtime commitment. … It was a short-term intervention that really made a difference and helped me to be more compassionate of others.”
At another time in her life, she found herself in circumstances that she couldn’t control — and she felt discouraged, hopeless and helpless. But in a stroke of inspiration, Stinson decided to start serving others.
“There’s a clinical piece to that,” she said. “Helping others releases endorphins. And it pulled me through that dark time. It gave me a sense of control because I could help change another person’s circumstances, even though I couldn’t help mine until things got better for me.”
Research points out that serving others through family history also provides a protective factor against depression and anxiety.
Gratitude provides a powerful benefit, with clinical support and research behind its impact, too. Something as simple as writing in a gratitude journal can help someone keep their focus and get through darkness. President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, spoke about that in October 2007 general conference.
Self-care is also a key concept, beginning with being kind to oneself, and being realistic about what can be done in a given season of life.
“Be encouraging and forgiving to yourself. Celebrate the successes that only you can appreciate,” Stinson said.