Many in the LDS church (although I imagine this is a problem in other faiths) believe that if they are depressed, it must be due to their own personal unrighteousness. This is tragic, but understandable. We seem to have a strong need to attribute everything that happens to us to one cause or another. If we have been told that we will be happy if we keep the commandments, surely if we’re not happy it must be our fault. We must not BE enough, or not be doing enough. Can you grasp how many “sins of omission” there are? The list is endless for those in the church who are struggling with depression, no matter how many times someone quotes Mosiah 4:27.

This month (on Halloween!) I am speaking to the adults in my ward about depression. In a recent ward council meeting, the sentiment above was discussed as a big concern among the ward members, especially for women. I have been directed by the bishop and the relief society president to: 1-raise sensitivity about the problem of depression, 2-help people recognize depression, 3-empower them to do something about it, and 4-undermine the stigma surrounding depression and seeking mental health. That is a lot to cover in about 30 minutes, but it speaks to the tremendous need in the ward. Do you think there is a similar need across the church in general?

Some important stats about depression (from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention):

  • About 15% of the population is clinically depressed at some point in their lives.
  • Depression affects one in ten men and one in four women.
  • Two in five people in the U.S. believe depression is a sign of personal weakness.
  • Less than half of people in the U.S. consider depression to be a health problem.
  • About 10% of those struggling with depression also suffer from bipolar disorder, which combines depression with periods of mania, and has a high risk of suicide.

Many in the church are affected by depression. Many others are not very aware of the problem, or don’t know the difference between “feeling down” and depression. I have definitely had symptoms of depression, but not for longer than a few days. Most of us have bad days now and then. How do you know when you’re actually depressed?

According to the DSM IV-TR (of the American Psychiatric Association), you may be clinically depressed if you have 5 or more of the following symptoms, nearly every day for at least two weeks, along with a loss of daily functioning:

  1. Sad or irritable mood most of the day
  2. Less interest and/or pleasure in activities
  3. Weight gain (or loss), or a decreased appetite
  4. Sleeping too little or too much
  5. Feeling restless or agitated
  6. Fatigue
  7. Feeling worthless or a lot of guilt
  8. Having difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  9. Having recurring thoughts of suicide, with or without a plan

How can we recognize depression in others?

  • Appearance: red swollen eyes, looking tired, changes in hygiene
  • Mood: anxious, nervous, angry, irritable, depressed (duh)
  • Sleep: too much or too little; frequent naps
  • Energy: low
  • Appetite & Weight: increase or decrease
  • Cognitive: difficulty concentrating, poor memory, indecisive

Keep in mind that if you have a concern about symptoms of depression in yourself or others, you should see a professional. The information here is not meant to help you diagnose yourself, only to help you recognize when something may be a problem. Some of the biggest barriers to seeing a counselor are a lack of trust that it will be helpful, and concerns about paying for services. Talk to a friend or a church leader you trust about what your options are. There is also a lot of quality (and not so quality) self-help literature on depression.

Readers:

  1. What do you think are some of the causes of depression among members of the church?
  2. What do you think I should address to my ward this month about depression? What do they need to know?
  3. I am also giving a youth fireside (sans parents) with the bishop on the same topic. What do you think are the biggest concerns regarding youth and depression?