I have a confession to make; I’m still not over Carrie Fisher. In December 2016 the legendary Star Wars actress passed away unexpectedly. Fisher was a personal hero of mine. Along with pioneering one of the first empowered female roles as Princess Leia, her lifelong battle with bipolar disorder helped bring attention to the stigma and misunderstanding that often accompanies mental illness. She helped start a movement addressing the realities of living with mental disorders and encouraging those who suffer to seek help.
Far too often, those who are plagued with mental health issues face discrimination and shame, and church members are no exception. Fortunately, modern-day prophets and apostles have spoken about mental illness, giving messages of hope and comfort to those who suffer. Here are some of their teachings on the subject:
One of the most iconic addresses on the subject of mental illness came from Elder Jeffry R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve in his 2013 talk “Like a Broken Vessel.” Elder Holland counsels that we consider our mental health no different than, “a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.” He goes on to urge,
“In preventing illness whenever possible, watch for the stress indicators in yourself and in others you may be able to help. As with your automobile, be alert to rising temperatures, excessive speed, or a tank low on fuel. When you face “depletion depression,” make the requisite adjustments. Fatigue is the common enemy of us all—so slow down, rest up, replenish, and refill. Physicians promise us that if we do not take time to be well, we most assuredly will take time later on to be ill.
If things continue to be debilitating, seek the advice of reputable people with certified training, professional skills, and good values. Be honest with them about your history and your struggles. Prayerfully and responsibly consider the counsel they give and the solutions they prescribe. 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. Our Father in Heaven expects us to use all of the marvelous gifts He has provided in this glorious dispensation.” –Jeffry R Holland Like a Broken Vessel, October 2013
This too shall pass
While wider efforts to increase awareness have recently risen, mental illnesses is nothing new. Back in 1974 President Ezra Taft Benson gave a conference talk chalk full of inspiring advice to help yourself and/or someone you love who suffers with depression. In addition to that prophetic counsel, President Benson also acknowledges that sometimes we just have to endure to the end. In his address President Benson teaches,
“There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you. As the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions, shall be but a small moment;
Hope brings us out of Despair
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has also given words of wisdom to those that struggle with mental hardship. In his 2008 address “The infinite power of Hope”, President Uchtdorf tells explains how hope can overcome despair. Elder Uchtdorf continues,
“The adversary uses despair to bind hearts and minds in suffocating darkness. Despair drains from us all that is vibrant and joyful and leaves behind the empty remnants of what life was meant to be. Despair kills ambition, advances sickness, pollutes the soul, and deadens the heart. Despair can seem like a staircase that leads only and forever downward.
Hope, on the other hand, is like the beam of sunlight rising up and above the horizon of our present circumstances. It pierces the darkness with a brilliant dawn. It encourages and inspires us to place our trust in the loving care of an eternal Heavenly Father, who has prepared a way for those who seek for eternal truth in a world of relativism, confusion, and of fear.” – President Dieter F Uchtdorf The Infinite Power of Hope, October 2008
Relying on the Holy Ghost
Though not exclusively addressing issues of mental illness, Henry B. Eyring’s 2015 address “The Comforter” has words of wisdom which can help those who are struggling with many different types of mental, physical or spiritual distress. President Eyring reminds us,
“When He was about to be crucified, the Savior described the way He helps lighten loads and gives strength to carry them. He knew that His disciples would grieve. He knew that they would fear for their future. He knew they would feel uncertain of their capacity to move forward.
So He gave them the promise that He makes to us and to all His true disciples:
“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever;” (Emphasis added). – Henry B Eyring The Comforter, April, 2015
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed with continuing revelation from modern-day prophets, seers and revelators who can guide and direct us in matters of importance, such as mental illness. While popular figures, such as Fisher, may speak out and bring important, wide-spread attention to these issues, Church leaders give us direct counsel from our Father in Heaven.
How have the Brethren inspired you as you or a family member or friend have struggled with mental illness? Let us know in the comments below. For more information about Depression within the LDS church, read this previous MormonHub article, LDS Perspecives: Depression and Mental Health Myths.