Why high antidepressant use in Utah?

deseretnews.com

PROVO – The LDS Church shouldn’t be blamed for Utah’s reputation as the runaway leader in antidepressant use, says a Brigham Young University professor.

And membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints clearly has a positive influence on mental health, according to Daniel K. Judd’s review of 540 studies on religion and mental health. …

… “Perhaps one of the reasons the residents of Utah lead the nation in the use of antidepressants is that since they are generally more educated and aware of the symptoms and treatments of depression, they are more likely than the residents of other states to seek medical treatment.” …[Read more]


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Posted on July 22, 2006, in Mormonism/LDS Church, News and politics. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. I would think the biggest reason anti-depressant use is so high in Utah is because Mormons are not at liberty to use alcohol to self-medicate for depression as the rest of the country does. Any normal person who gets depressed just goes out and gets drunk. Since a Mormon does not allow himself to do that, he seeks out professional help from those who prescribe anti-depressants. In 1983 my closest loved on, a brother who joined the Church after I did, committed suicide. He had a severe form of the mental illness, bipolar disorder. I can’t help thinking that if he had been anybody else he would have just gone out and gotten drunk. He might have become an alcoholic, but he would still be alive… after a fashion. Maybe suicide is better than that, or perhaps even a slower method of suicide.

    Anyway, I think Mormons take medication instead of alcohol. I doubt very much if they suffer from any more depression than anyone else. I would imagine they suffer from it less.

  2. John Sinclair-Hall

    A more educated and informed individual may be aware that drugs such antidepressants have undesirable side effects and dependancy.
    There are many homeopathic and herbal treatments that have a safer treatment. I don’t think a more educated person necessarily would turn to taking drugs such as these. In my experience it is those who do not know how to handle their own health situations that turn to Doctors, who of course, know the very best for us all and promote the use of antidepresants.This promotes the cycle of dependancy on drugs and doctors. The pressure of work and having to be more successful than your neighbor may contribute to this issue more than education. Well of course I may not have this correct, after all I live in Missouri!

  3. Hmm…maybe it has something to do with Utah! Too many people I know who live in Utah have taken or are currently taking anti-depressants and now consider themselves former, or (my favorite) “recovering” Mormons.

    We’ll visit, but I’ll never move my family to that place. Incidently, I’m in Missouri too. Now that’s irony for you.

  4. Mormons and anti depressants.

    I am convinced that Mormons take anti depressants because the religion is the problem. The pressures to conform are immense and this can depress people. I am a Mormon. I joined at aged 16, over 24 years ago but I bravely resisted the pressures to conform to Mormon expectations. I see a lot of pretense among the women in particular, who outwardly seem happy, and testify of the merits of Mormonism, but they know how they really feel. In order to keep up the pretense they have to take something. If the church was fulfilling them spiritually, they would not need anti depressants. The professor is just covering up for the church. The church is making people ill and they are trying as ever to shift the blame. I am now seen as an enemy to the church because I refuse to listen and obey some of the nonsensical counsel given by the leaders which would have served to throw me off course. I wonder what advice the leaders give to those on anti depressants. I wonder too if it is for taking on board such advice why they needed anti depressants in the first place. If Mormons were in general true to themselves they would probably not be depressed. Figure it out.

  5. There’s no point being defensive, the Mormon church needs to ask itself questions.

  6. Until we Mormon’s look at our bad eating habits of everything sugary, we will never come to grips with hypoglycemia causing depression and anxiety. Utah is not only high on antidepressants, but also high on diabetes, which is usually preceeded by hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
    http://www.alternativementalhealth.com/articles/hypoglycemia.htm

    Wakeup Mormondom. It maybe all the green jello-o, cakes, cookies and kool-aid we have at mormon parties.
    My family got off all the popular antidepressants after learning of the link with hypoglycemia.

  7. I have to agree with you Jay in using this comment that I’ve made several times now in Word of Wisdom/Prayer lessons. They get it every time: Basically, as Mormons, we pray and ask God to bless our food; to make it nourish and sustain us… when half the time what we have presented before Him to bless is junk! At least give Him something to work with!

  8. Robert G. Nielson

    Bad eating habits are much wider spread than just within the mormon population thus rendering this a less than complete solution to the problem at hand. I agree that the pressure to be perfect but the complete impossibility of attaining perfection creates a situation of guilt and low self worth that leads directly to anxiety and depression. It also takes a more circuitous route by producing bad eating , sleeping, working habits which produce a physically based source of depression and anxiety to top off the already existing guilt produced situation. This also results in a very high suicide rate and a high level of suppressed anger which can surface as violence or risk taking behaviors. I’ve experienced and still experience all of these situations I’d push high risk sports until I’d get injured and have to back off. I’d sit in church and just know that there is no way I’ll ever be able to remember all the sins I have to repent and make restitution for so it would put me in a state of deep borderline suicidal depression until I would go through my life and find the “reason” or sin that was producing the depression then it would go away until the next situation surfaced after a lesson on repentance or on a particular sin. I’m still on medication but I have a much healthier concept of Jesus Christ and the atonement which seems to help me through the rough points.

  9. I think it’s a combination of two things that have been hinted at already.

    1. Incorrect knowledge of the core principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also fell into this incorrect knowledge, subconsciously assuming that God and Christ were like the broken people around me. I found out much later that they are much more merciful and less condemning than the people around me are, including myself. Once I figured this out along with figuring out that I am to be perfect through Christ, not all by myself, then I was able to make progress and achieve lasting joy. This isn’t just knowledge either, it really has to do with trust and faith in Christ and his attributes and in what He has done for me to help me understand that I have independent worth.

    2. When you combine number 1 above with the fact that Mormons deny themselves a lot of the quick fix, run-away-from-or-cover-up-your-problems solutions like alcohol, drugs, food, etc. you get a person who incorrectly thinks that they have to be perfect all by themselves and nowhere to turn for escape from that lie, so they turn to a “legal” form of drugs. Don’t get me wrong, there are situations where legal drugs are necessary – that’s not my point. My point is that once the incorrect doctrines I explained above were corrected in me, I wasn’t depressed any more, just a bit uncomfortable – which is where I can start working on my defects one at a time, hand in hand with a loving Savior.

    In summary, misunderstanding true doctrine combined with a lack of faith in Christ combined with denying myself the normal runaway mechanisms of this world (alcohol, etc.) made for a sad person. Once I understood correct doctrine and applied it and increased my faith in Christ (through hearing testimony and through righteous works), I became much happier, but with just enough discomfort to work on my impatience, grumpiness, pride, etc. and become a more mature human being and become ever so slightly closer to how Christ wants me to be – so that I can have a fullness of joy. I don’t think I’ll get there in this lifetime, but I’m headed in the right direction now. The Gospel of Jesus Christ reveals the illness within me so that I can get it out and get better, it doesn’t cause the illness – the illness was caused by sin – my own sin and the sin of those around me. Actually, the cause isn’t important – what is important is the fact that I work on getting the effects of these sins out of me so I can have joy.

    I just don’t like it when people pretend that their misunderstanding of mormon doctrine (i.e. the Gospel of Jesus Christ) is actually the correct doctrine of the mormon church and then attempt to prove that these incorrect doctrines are what the mormon church teaches, and that therefore, the mormon church is also incorrect. That’s a strawman tactic and it’s sad to see people use it.

  10. Robert G. Nielson

    The big problem is that there are people teaching their false interpretations over pulpits throughout the church on a regular basis. We also have a problem with how we keep track of doctrine. Originally the Doctrine and Covenants was where you would go to find an answer but as later prophets made previous revelations change or become obsolete. they aren’t always, more like never, recorded in the standars works so you are required to do a hopscotch through the Ensign, the Journal of discourses the conference records to find out what the hell we really do believe. Always make sure it’s the latest installment because in our church God’s word isn’t necessarily the same yesterday, today, and forever. Pick a topic of doctrine and ask ten different members, general authorities included, and you’ll usually get ten different answers to your question with equally convincing scriptures and testimonies to back them up. The word of wisdom is a perfect example. I’ve heard more “accepted” interpretations of that one section of scripture than any other. So the problem really does exist that people who represent the church and who are considered God’s anointed are busy twisting the brains of confused members. I’ve gone from being depressed at this to the point of being furious at the bum steers I’ve gotten through my life in the church. Disclaimers should be present on sacrament meeting programs saying “unless otherwise stated opinions stated here may or may not agree with church doctrine. This is one of the hazards of a lay ministry like we have in our church.

  11. I agree that disinformation is out there and we need to take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. However, the core of what I see as being the cause of depression, etc. is really the misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself rather than the misunderstanding of these other “side” doctrines.

    I’ve been wrong just as others have and so I can’t fault them for my believing in them. We’re not to trust in the arm of the flesh but I look at General Conference material from the first presidency, I haven’t seen any huge discrepancies coming from them about the core doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself. Most of the discrepancy has come from my own intereaction with broken people living life, not from broken teachings.

    Coke vs. coffee is in an entirely different realm. And most of that stuff can be resolved by people honestly using their brains to find the truth and then leaving each other alone. 🙂

  12. Robert G. Nielson

    Possibly the problem is that you’re never good enough. You’re not recieving answers to prayers because you’re not worthy enough so you bust your chops doing everything you can to be “super mormon” but you still don’t recieve an answer. You do have a nervous breakdown though or in your intensive study you find questions and contradictions that make absolutely no sense but the church is perfect so it’s you that’s at fault. You re-double your efforts again hoping that this is the answer to being rid of the pain of the depression. “If I can just conquer this one more sin then I’ll be worthy enough to be released from this trial”. You are caught in a catch 22 . You need to be worthy to feel better but you can never get there so the pain lives on. The whole quagmire is deadly I’ve had family members and friends blow their heads off or carbon monoxide themselves to death. You need to get the medication to get stable enough to realize that this isn’t the way the Lord wants it. Our sins have been paid for by Christ ,accept that and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do ,whether they’re your family member, bishop, stake president, General Authority they don’t have your best interest at heart. Get professional help so you become able to see these insidious opinions for the efficient killers that they really are.

  13. Well, if feeling the spirit has anything to do with the Church (and it does), then perhaps this is yet another way the adversary talks to us. Maybe we are trying to be perfect at the expense of our souls. If you can’t think and feel, then one church is pretty much like the next. Don’t think about the problems in your life…don’t face them, just take a drug to make you feel “ok” and you don’t have to deal with all of that. It is certainly easier. Perhaps this is the biggest attack the devil has used yet. The attack on the mind. Most of all of this has to do with lack of communication and unrealistic (self imposed) expectations. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect now. He expects you to strive for perfection. I do concede that many people do have genuine depression that cannot be helped or treated without medication, but the majority of cases are not that way. The old saying is, “If you pretend to be happy you will be happy.” Why not let yourself be sad once in a while? Isn’t that what life is about…the highs and the lows? Allow yourself to be sad. It’s not a crime.

  14. Robert G. Nielson

    Most don’t need medication? Tell that to the families of my Uncle, Great Grand father, and several friends who blew their heads all over walls or hung themselves for their children to find, or turned on the car in a closed garage. Pretending to be happy is the biggest crock of sh*t i’ve ever heard. When you have assinine books like “the Miracle of forgiveness” and uneducated, insipid instructors who tell people that if you don’t find every little mistake in your life and agonize and make restitution for them that you are going to Hell . It’s a true miracle that we don’t have even higher anti depressant use, or suicide rates. Face it , the way we are taught and manipulated is the cause. Alcohol is a sedative and helps a bit for anxiety and panic but tends to drop you deeper when your depressed. If you drink enough you’ll forget things for awhile but unless you stay in that state you always come back to the gloom plus now you’re an alcoholic. Talking to a professional and getting whatever help they suggest , be it counseling, medication or both is the only way to live with depression. Take it from someone who has tried the various methods personally. You still have highs and lows on medication it just doesn’t get so low that you would rather die than deal with the pain.

  15. I don’t think the last two comments are really disagreeing with each other. Yes, most don’t need medication – some do, and your 3 examples out of a hundred prove that point.

    The miracle of forgiveness is a fine book for those who understand the core of the gospel and it is overwhelming for those who don’t.

    Pretending to be happy perhaps could be better phrased as focusing on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative. Obviously some can do that without meds, some need meds until they can get back on their feet.

    Yes members and instructors are broken just like me and we all have to do our best to filter through the truth and untruth and to make constructive comments.

    Depression doesn’t have to be “lived with” – it is cured as faith in the meaning of the atonement grows. That’s my experience. Some need meds to help stabilize for a time and that’s fine – most don’t and that’s fine too.

  16. Robert G. Nielson

    Depression is not based on sin and knowledge of the atonement. If it were why would all these people who have the full truth of the gospel be the most heavily depressed group in the country and have one of the highest suicide rates as well. I also hate to tell you but depression is a disease with definite differences in brain chemistry and construction. It’s far different than the sadness for sin, I’ve experienced this in exquisite detail but it pales in comparison to true disabling depression. Faith and prayer don’t cure everything. If sin and lack of knowledge of the atonement are the answer, how come there have been General Authorities with debilitating, hospitalizing mental illnesses. I guess they must not have enough faith or knowledge. I guess I don’t have enough faith to be cured by blessings and the atonement. There’s too much stigma attached to mental illness already without adding the guilt of not having enough faith or not understanding or believing in the atonement enough to the mix. Saying meds or no meds are both fine is a cop out. It doesn’t address the source of the significantly higher antidepressant use in Utah. The problem exists in the catch 22 that if you are faithful enough you will be forgiven and feel better, but when you don’t feel better it must be because you haven’t become a good enough member yet, so it continues to build guilt and depression because the medical issue hasn’t been dealt with. Don’t let anyone bullsh*t you, ifyou feel depression get help. I don’t mean going to the bishop but to a trained professional who can really make an educated diagnosis that will get you on the road to recovery.

  17. In my experience, the sins of others and my own sins were at the source of my depression. Faith in Christ and humility allowed me to be healed through the atonement of Christ. Many people need outside help to get to a point of full recovery be it counseling, meds, or help from the people around them. None of us are perfect and therefore none of us has a perfect faith or knowledge or humility. That’s nothing to be guilty about.

    Brain chemistry and structure when it comes to depression and addiction are changed by that addiction and depression and when the addiction and depression are overcome, the brain returns to normal. I have seen the studies (and CAT/MRI scans) on this when it comes to addiction and it can be very misleading to the psychologists who don’t deal with anything beyond the physical issues. They don’t realize the power and impact of the spiritual side of things to change the physical. Sure there are instances where brain damage of some sort causes problems, but in my understanding, those are in the minority. That can be healed also. If knowing that this can be healed through Faith in Christ induces guilt when I’m not healed yet, then I’m believing lies that go against the truths of the gospel. This is what happened to me and once I stopped believing those lies, change started and healing began.

    Yes General Authorities are just people like you and me who can be subject to mental illness, etc. They can have pride, weakness, etc. It’s not just a matter of knowledge or position, but of correct knowledge, humility, and faith.

    I assert from my experience that one of the biggest reasons for the depression, anti-depressant, and suicide is a combination of misconceptions about the gospel and pride. The prophets of the Book of Mormon repeatedly warned us in our day of pride, but we’ve fallen into it anyway. That pride turns the true gospel into a righteousness competition – twists the truth into damning expectations. Combine that with the voluntary denial of self medication with drugs, alcohol, etc. and you can get a bunch of sad people.

    I have seen for myself many things be cured through the atonement of Christ – from depression to addiction to lung cancer to homosexuality. It truly can heal all things when faith, humility, and the will of God combine. Pure joy is the result. That’s my experience.

  18. P.S. Feeling guilty about not having enough faith to be healed is like feeling guilty about having a half-completed house under construction. There’s no reason for guilt, but there is reason to continue doing the things that increase faith until the job is complete.

    P.P.S. This joy and freedom from depression, etc. has come over years of failure and tears – it’s not easy, but it does work with patience and I’ve got tons left to work on, but my joy is increasing and it’s working.

    P.P.P.S. Another good example of trust in Christ used to overcome depression is 2 Nephi 4 where Nephi is encompassed about by his many sins. His father had just died and his brothers wanted to kill him on top of that. Nevertheless, he knew in whom he trusted…

    P.P.P.P.S. I really enjoy my conversations with you – you make me think, and I like that. Thanks!

  19. Robert G. Nielson

    You know, I think in reading between the lines in your posts that you have hit on a truth. There is no one easy answer to this problem. It can be as varied as the people who are affected. Whatever method gets relief is totally valid. What works for you may not work for me and vice versa. I also enjoy our conversations. It’s nice to meet someone who will stick to their beliefs and has the intelligence to debate and discuss them. Thanks to you as well.

  20. I agree.

    For me, I try to find what works to help me have lasting independent joy – joy that’s not dependent upon anything outside of myself and my savior.

    Sometimes, I need to be dependent upon something for a time and that’s OK as long as it’s just a stepping stone toward eventual freedom from that crutch.

    I don’t believe in incurable things any more – I did up until a few years ago. My experience has taught me that God can cure anything if I have enough faith in Him, self honesty, and if it matches His will for me – which if it involves having independent joy, it usually does match His will for me.

    Take care!

  21. I can’t believe what I am reading…. You know not everyone on anti depressents in Utah is even mormon. Mormons have been loosing the majority in this state for a long time. Don’t blame the church for the drug use of the members. Thats just shifting the responsibility. Not all depressed people need meds and there are ALOT of doctors who are WAY TO QUICK to perscribe meds in the first place. Even friends and family are quick to reccomend meds to someone going through a hard time. One year ago today I lost my second daughter to stillbirth. (that makes two babies lost to stillbirth both girls) I had a really hard time. My mother recomended getting on meds. Duh! I may have been hurting but that doesn’t mean I’m a mental case. There are people who do have chemical imbalances in the brain and DO need meds and thats ok. I was not one of them however. My friend was not getting along with her parents and they forced her to go to therapy and on the FIRST visit asked her if she wanted any medications. Yes she may have been dealing with alot but she wasn’t sick so what the hell did she need meds for? She is not LDS btw.

    My cousin was being treated for depression and killed himself anyway. Later it was found out that is wasn’t depression that he was suffering from. It was bi-polar disorder. So basically he was given the wrong meds for his condition which probably contributed to his suicide. He was also not LDS

    People need to take responsibility for their own health and not blame everyone and everything else. Don’t blame the church. Those who do have a serious problem MUST get on the nessecarry medications and should not feel embarrased about it. At the same time, just because you are grieving and feeling sad doesn’t mean you should rush to the nearest doctor and ask for meds. anti-depressents are serious brain altering drugs and if your brain is functioning normaly then you don’t need them. I think that doctors should ALWAYS do some kind of brain scan before perscribing brain altering drugs to someone.

    Jamie

  22. Interesting debate.

  23. Correlation does not equal causation, but correlation does suggest causation.

    I don’t think it’s fair to “blame” the LDS church or Mormonism for the higher-than-average use of antidepressants in Utah. But I also think it’s naive and unrealistic to avoid taking a close look at Utah’s unique culture to determine if it contains possible explanations for the antidepressant usage.

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