On Saturday Afternoon Session  of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference Elder Jeffry R. Holland spoke on mental illness and emotional problems.
Wow was I impressed!
As a psychologist, I’ve been to a lot of workshops, college courses, etc etc about mental illness but I’m not sure I’ve heard so many wonderful hopeful concepts.
I’m positive Elder Holland’s talk will be among a very short list of LDS general authorities who have spoken publicly about mental illness.
The short list of other “Classic” talks on mental illness:

Elder Boyd K Packer’s talk published in the Ensign in 1978 and 2010:  Solving Emotional Problems In the Lord’s Own Way;
Elder M. Russell Ballard’s 1987 Ensign article: Suicide: Some Things We Know, and
Some We Do Not;
Elder Alexander Morrison’s 2003 book: Valley of Sorrow: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Mental Illnessand the Ensign article: Myths About Mental Illness;
And Elder Rex D. Pinegar and our Foundation’s 2005 book  And I Will Make Thee Whole: Helping Families with Mental Health Concerns.
(Or course now LDS.org has a Mental Illness section on their website: See: Mental Illness.)


Here are my observations on Elder Holland’s talk
Like a Broken Vessel:
(I didn’t like the title. I would have liked something more positive like “Broken Minds Can Be Healed.”)

Elder Holland’s “One liners”
It’s always refreshing to see the stigma of mental illness reduced for both the surrounding loved ones and the person suffering from the illness. Elder Holland made several statements in his talk comparing mental illness with any other medical disease …. here are two of my favorites:

…there should be no more shame in acknowledging them [mental illness and emotional problems] than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.

And this one….

If you had appendicitis, God would expect you to seek a priesthood blessing and get the best medical care available. So too with emotional disorders [and mental illness]. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use ALL of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation..

Elder Holland referencing his OWN mental illness
Of course just having Elder Holland say the words “mental illness” in an official setting like Conference in my opinion is a small miracle. But to “admit” he has suffered from a serious depression condition is a much larger miracle. Elder Holland said:

I once terrifyingly saw it [depression] in myself. At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working,…

Elder Holland referencing President Smith’s mental illness
Plus Elder Holland went one step further identifying numerous world leaders and other popular figures who have also suffered from depression/mental illness including:

Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christ like men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Remember, in an earlier blog we told the story of President Harold B. Lee’s battle with depression. See: Depression: A Dark Angel.

Believe it or not at times the “self-stigmatisation” (the stigma and shame the individual with mental illness has about themselves) is more devastating than even the mental illness symptoms! Read this last sentence again— Believe it or not at times the “self-stigmatisation” (the stigma and shame the individual with mental illness has about themselves) is more devastating than even the mental illness symptoms! 🙁 Reducing stigma helps healing! 🙂

Elder Holland used words like: “neuroses and psychoses, … bipolarity, paranoia, and schizophrenia” and of course “MDD, Major Depressive Disorder.”  He carefully discussed characteristics of Major Depressive Disorder identifying the difference between the mental illness and normal depression/discouragement we all experience.

When I speak of this, [Major Depressive Disorder] I am not speaking of bad hair days, tax deadlines, or other discouraging moments we all have. Everyone is going to be anxious or downhearted on occasion. … But today I am speaking of something more serious, of an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully

In an earlier blog Depression: A Dark Angel we talked about the confusion associated with the misuse of the word “Depression.”

Clearly, Elder Holland has had a personal experience with the mental illness referred to as Major Depressive Disorder. You might ask how could I tell? Look at how he described depression:

-“a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively
this dark night of the mind and spirit is more than mere discouragement
-“searched … and contemplated the darkest abyss
and of course his several references to suicide.

Only a person who has experienced the mental illness of “depression” would understand the associated darkness and despair.

And most helpful was Elder Holland’s TO DO LIST for those suffering from the mental illness of Depression – here are a few:

1. Above all never lose faith in your Father in Heaven who
loves you more than you can comprehend.
2. Seek the counsel from those who hold keys for your spiritual well being.
3. Ask for cherish priesthood blessings.
4. Take the Sacrament every week.
5. Hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ
6. Believe in miracles.
7. Trusting in happier days ahead. Hope is never lost.
8. If the bitter cup does not pass drink it. And be strong.
9. Get the best medical care available.

For more suggestions check out the blog: Got depression? Do this.

Elder Holland goes on to give advice to caregivers, to talk about how to prevent “depletion depression“,  and to share the story about Stephanie Clark Nielsen. (A few years ago Mormon Messages did a video on Sister Nielsen’s story- My New Life. )

The fact that Elder Holland talked so openly and frankly about mental illness brings HOPE into the healing process for thousands of those who hear it.

A couple of other great quotes from his talk were:

“If we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly
will take time later on, to be ill.”

“We are infinitely more than our limitations or our afflictions!” 
“Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”

Watch Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s – Conference Talk on Mental Illness-Like a Broken Vessel.

Read the written text- Like a Broken Vessel of Elder Holland’s talk.

(Make sure to pay attention to his last paragraph, it’s the best!)

dr rick
dr rick’s blog index

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This