This is the second post on this subject. See the first post (my take) here. Becca is a friend and has a fun family blog where she talks about her kids antics, her passion for homeschooling, and, well, anything else that interests her! Check her out at http://beccajones.blogspot.com/.
I have thought about this for a long time and I've come to some
questions and thoughts (I don't think they're conclusions yet).
1. I haven't read the original study, nor even the link Laura put to
the analysis of it (bad me....), but I have always wondered if UTAH
being the most depressed state can actually be equated with Mormons
being the most depressed people. It seems likely to me that anyone on
the 'outside,' like non-mormons and non-active-mormons are in Uah,
would feel prone to report symptoms of depression and skew the
2. Orson Scott Card once said that Mormons are, by nature, not
followers, but rebels. I heard him say this is a lecture, so I don't
have a source note for you. He explained that Mormons, at least
initially, tended to be the people who were unsettled and willing to
try new things, look at new ideas, and reject the establishment's way
of doing things in search of a higher way. This character trait can
also be expressed in people as 'creativity', which recently was linked
fairly definitively with depression--the same traits that make a
person prone to creativity also make them prone to express depression.
You can read more about this in "Delivered from Distraction," a book
on ADD that has a chapter on the links between creativity, depression,
and ADD and discusses how people with ADD or depression can avoid the
extremes of their illnesses by managing their creativity properly.
Unfortunately, my experience with Mormons is that, although we are
taught explicitly to express our creativity and develop our talents
(see the most recent women's conference for this), we don't allow
ourselves to really make time for this or embrace this because we are
too busy living up to that unrealistic cultural ideal that Laura made
reference to--the perfect woman equals perfect house syndrome. For
creative people, according to Halliwell (the author of 'Delivered,'),
this can lead to increased feelings of depression.
In other words, the genetic predisposition doesn't conflict with the
doctrine, but it can very strongly conflict with the culture, like
Laura said, and the very thing that makes people prone to join the
church also makes their descendants prone to creativity and
3. I always wonder, when I see ideas like 'most depressed state' or
'autism has higher incidence' reported in studies if the actual issue
is more prevalent, or if the reporting of it and seeking treatment for
it are more prevalent. Are Mormons really the most depressed people,
or, with their understanding that 'Happiness is [our] heritage' (as
Elder Uchtdorf said), they don't identify depression (even in its
anxiety/anger expressions) and seek treatment more often.
Likewise, with our emphasis on women having children and staying home
with them and not abusing them, we may be more in tune with the
symptoms of depression (all of them, even if we don't call them
depression) than women who work full time outside the home, or have no
children by choice. I'm not saying our lifestyle CAUSES depression,
but merely that it makes it more noticeable and imperative that we get
treatment for it.
Many of the non-mormons I know just expect that life is going to be
unhappy, or 'gray-to-black', all the time, or assume that it's normal
for people to feel extreme anxiety or anger. When it gets to be too
much, they self-medicate with alcohol or other soft drugs, or they
(often) have the freedom that mothers of many don't have to exercise
for 2 hours a day, or sink themselves for 24 hours into their art, or
even, often, change their diets significantly. And many many of them,
not knowing any better, figure that's life and just go along.
I have also been told by many people that their LDS parents told them
that getting help for mental illness is a sign of weakness or a lack
of faith. The church has most emphatically tried to squelch this
falsehood, but many many people let all kinds of mental illness
flourish and interfere in their lives because of a lie that trusting
Jesus is enough, and if he doesn't heal you, you don't have enough
Because of this, I have appreciated Laura's perspective that God made
her with depression for a reason--not that she shouldn't treat it and
seek happiness, but that perhaps she has things to learn that will
make it so that all her faith and reliance on Christ may not relieve
her of her challenges, but that does not mean she has to spend her
whole life suffering with her illness.
Just like faith in Christ does not mean we acknowledge he exists and
then 'do it on my own,' it also doesn't mean we don't act at all and
wait for him to fix everything up the way we demand or expect, or that
it will be a fast and easy ride.