Where can [the mentally ill] turn for peace?

Aside from the obvious answer that they can turn to the Savior, where are concrete, physical human beings actually within reach to whom Latter-day Saints who suspect they may suffer from mental illness may turn?  Some suggestions I have heard from caring individuals on various blogs and in other discussions on this topic are listed below, with a critique of that source from my (limited) perspective.  I invite everyone to offer their own perspective so that I, in turn, can offer it to people I know who stand in need of help but are unsure of where to turn.

I appreciate Ronan’s informative post over at BCC– it provides a great starting point.  Here are the sources which I see as possibilities to get help, and my comments/questions/concerns regarding each:

Talking to the Bishop:

My first reaction to this idea is that the Bishop can refer you to counseling or offer practical guidance to help you.   Besides, talking to the Bishop can never be a bad thing, right?  Well, I’m not so sure about that…

If I had a problem with mental health such as depression or anxiety or similar, I would be probably be loathe to discuss it with the Bishop.  For one thing, the Bishop is not a trained counselor, though he can certainly refer you to one.  Bishops’ viewpoints on mental illness can vary greatly from person to person, because although the Bishop has a spiritual mantle and special gift of discernment, he is still a man subject to all the biases and preconceptions that come as a function of his upbringing and general world view.  One Bishop might correctly refer a person struggling with these issues to an appropriate professional, where another might suggest that the cause is entirely spiritual and inflict more harm by suggesting that the person so afflicted must be doing something wrong, heaping more guilt/shame on an already irrationally self-blaming conscience.

Another reason why I would be hesitant to approach a Bishop with such issues is that the Bishop is a judge in Israel, not a counselor.  If I were suffering from prolonged depression or anxiety, I probably would not have done anything that requires input from a judge in Israel (even though, in my irrational state, I may think I have).  I am afraid that when members approach Bishops, too often the "judge in Israel" switch may turn on, causing Bishops to judge where they really just need to listen and refer the problem elsewhere.

Finally, I would hate for my family to be the topic of discussion in Ward Council meeting, where the Bishop out of genuine concern opens his mouth and discusses my problems with everyone there!  Not all Bishops would, but I have sat in enough PEC meetings and ward council meetings where just that has occured to be very wary of it.   

Once the news gets to the ward council members, it might as well be broadcast to the ward. ("Did you hear about _____? Oh, I feel so bad about ____. I’m just thankful I’m not in that situation ….", etc.)  No thanks!  It seems like that may unfairly stigmatize your family and put a brand on your head forevermore, branding you as "having issues" and barring you from future callings that may be necessary for your spiritual growth and development.

On the other hand, the Bishop is concerned with and has been given a charge concerning both our temporal and spiritual welfare, and probably is entitled to inspiration on issues such as mental illness.  Whether the Bishop listens for it or not is another issue. 

Personally, I would be wary of turning to the Bishop first.  If any of you have personal experiences with this or know someone who did this, please share.

LDS Family Services:

This is definitely a resource to consider.  Ronan suggests that in order to gain access to this service you have to be referred by your bishop, which may be true in reality if not in theory.  According to information at providentliving.org, individuals may also contact LDS Family Services on their own (contact information here):

Professional counseling can assist members in a variety of situations. Common reasons for counseling include, but are not limited to, marital conflict, parent-child conflict, addiction, abuse, depression, anxiety, and same-gender attraction. Working with the member and the member’s bishop is often helpful in changing destructive behaviors and creating healthier relationships. A bishop and member can often determine together if professional counseling might be helpful. To receive counseling services, members may be referred by their bishop or branch president, or they may contact the agency directly.

However, even though it might seem one has the ability to contact LDS Family Services on one’s own, I highly doubt that one can use this service without involving the Bishop at some point, because this service is so inextricably woven into the Church network.  That is not necessarily a bad thing (I mean- wouldn’t you want your Bishop to know? But see above re approaching the Bishop…), but it is certainly a consideration to make.

I invite anyone who has used LDS Family Services or knows someone who has to comment on the experience and if it was worthwhile or not.  I have my doubts about its efficacy, nut mostly just because I am wary that it may be too reliant on spiritual means for cure rather than physiological ones. I may be wrong and stand to be corrected if that is the case.

An LDS Counselor/Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Social Worker:

First of all, I don’t even really know what the difference is between the different titles underlined above.  What kinds of different treatment do each offer?  Which one would a depressed person, or one suffering from anxiety disorders, or one suffering from a pornography addiction, or from "I-don’t-know-what’s-wrong-with-me-but-I-NEED-HELP" type issues?

That said, I might be willing to trust an LDS counselor above a non-LDS one because I suspect there are counselors out there in the world who have the philosophy that many of these depression/anxiety related issues stem from living in a "prohibitive" religion.  I would want to seek out someone who knows that living the restored Gospel can and should bring happiness, and therefore knows that the gospel is not the problem.

However, an LDS counselor might, again, be too tied into the church network.  As happened to the fictional Septimus H, the counselor could even be in your own Church network.  Maybe humility is in order, but I would be very embarrassed if I had issues and anyone in my ward/stake who I might actually have contact with at some point were to actually "find out" about my issues. 

Also, word of seeing an LDS counselor would probably end up worming its way back to the Bishop, which, as described above, can open up its own uncomfortable can of worms.  If you are reading this in Utah, you may think "yeah, right" to yourselves.  But out here in Texas and elsewhere, this could be a real possibility.

Seeing an LDS counselor definitely has its benefits where whatever counsel is rendered comes from an informed LDS perspective, but for me personally there would be too big a risk of "getting caught."  Anyone have any experience like this? Am I worrying too much about this?

Besides, how in the world do you get hooked up with a good LDS counselor anyway, aside from discussing it with your Bishop?  Ronan posted a link of LDS service providers, but I doubt it is all-encompassing or in any way complete. 

Seeing a Non-LDS Counselor/Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Social Worker:

With this option, you probably wouldn’t have to worry about people at Church (or anywhere else for that matter) finding out that you have been getting mental help.  I understand that "other people knowing" should not be an issue, but I think it is an issue for many people, particularly those who are already thinking irrationally due to their mental condition for which they are seeking treatment.

However, who knows what informs this person’s philosophies.  This may be the type of person who believes that religion is the biggest motivating factor in depression/anxiety related illnesses.  (I would be inclined to believe that myself at times if I didn’t have faith, based on personal experiences, that religion is supposed to bring joy, not sorrow, and I am a religious person!).  If I were having mental/emotional difficulties, I would not want to put my delicate soul in the hands of a faith butcher, exposing to him/her my religious jugular.

So I would not be likely to seek treatment from a non-LDS professional.


I would have a hard time seeking help from any of the above-mentioned sources for the reasons given in additional to other reasons.  Even if I were inclined to find a professional, how would one even go about doing so? Does one talk to a primary care physician in the first instance? What if you are the type who never goes to the doctor, and don’t even know your primary care physician? Where do/can the mentally ill actually turn for real, tangible help RIGHT NOW, as opposed to faith for healing in the future from a being not of this world?

I would appreciate any insights or experiences regarding where such people can turn for peace.  Thank you. 

31 Responses to Where can [the mentally ill] turn for peace?

  1. john f. says:

    I suppose that the best place to start would be to talk to a primary care giver. It doesn’t have to be some doctor that is the “family doctor”–just anyone who is covered by the insurance policy. Mentioning the symptoms to him or her and asking for a referral to a specialist is a safe bet.

    I also don’t see much value in talking the bishop, mostly for the reason that the bishop likely won’t have any idea how to treat different mental illnesses unless he also happens to be a specialist in his professional life.

    I don’t see any compelling reason to keep it within church channels, i.e. by preferring LDS Family Services or a counselor over outside professional help, which will usually be covered by the insurance policy of a working professional.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    I agree with John. I don’t see any particular reason to keep this within the Church.

  3. Jordan F. says:

    And- how do you know your professional is not a “faith-butcher”?

    And how do you bring this up to a primary care physician you have never met? You can’t just call some doctor (listed in your insurance) on the phone and say: “hello! I’m feeling mentally out of sorts. Who should I talk to?”

    Besides, someone who is truly suffering from depression or anxiety would be no more able to pick up the phone and call someone than a blind person would be able to read a map…

  4. Sarebear says:

    Hi. I have a whole raft of responses to many things in your post, but at the moment, I can only focus on one at a time.

    So the first, being I was told by my Bishop, as I’ve been working with him over the last year and a half, that LDS Social Services? You don’t have to have a referral by the bishop, to avail yourself of their services, like you used to have to.

    Another thing he’s told me is, if you’ve got a broken arm, you can’t pray it away. Technically, if you have enough faith, AND ITS THE LORD’S WILL, you could, but that’s a hypothetical one in many billions. And, I am glad he sees my illnesses as REAL health problems.

    A lady who is working with my bishop (her daughter is bipolar, and she works with NAMI), has helped him understand these issues more, as he sought her and her husband’s experiences in these matters. He also put them into a sort of special home teacher role with me, to help me with these issues and things. Although that latter is no longer the case; he has wanted me to pull away from so much reliance on them, which I already had, naturally, as I became further into processes and things on my own. This lady, who is now a very special friend of mine, helped me start the Social Security Disability application process in the summer of 04. Which process is still underway. She also has hooked me up with the psychologist and psychiatrist she was most happy with for her daughter, in their experiences. And I must say, it has been a HUGE BLESSING to me to have access to these two men. To sort of have them prescreened, as it were.

    I know DEFINITELY in the case of the ologist, that he is supportive of my spiritual feelings and experiences. And that I found him through the miracles in which the Lord has worked in my life.

    The day this lady’s husband showed up, in the late winter of 04, on my doorstep one Sunday afternoon, and said he was my new hometeacher (I didn’t know I had any old ones, they never came), and we talked for a minute or two, and I told him about my depression (I didn’t know it was anything other than that, at the time, although I knew there was SOMETHING(S) other wrong with me, but not what), and this look on his face came over him, and his whole demeanor changed, and he said a little about their daughter, and how they work with NAMI, and how they even teach a class to families of the mentally ill, and a few other things. I felt, in my heart, “this is a turning point in my life; this man, showing up at this time, and having the experience he and his wife do, in this area, is what I have been praying for my whole life; the next stage of finally finding out what’s up with me, and getting help and stuff, is finally here”. I knew my life was about to change. And I knew, for SURE, in my heart, that the help I had prayed for for 20 years, was at hand. Not that it is all of a sudden better, or that the processes even start very quickly.

    The bishop heard me relate this experience, and wanted to use it to inspire the brethren to home teach. YOU NEVER KNOW what just showing up on someone’s doorstep, can mean, to someone. I wouldn’t be scared of ridiculous expectations; even with the incredible witness I received, I don’t and didn’t have EXPECTATIONS of any specific thing, except maybe some support and kindness and some kind of knowledge that I couldn’t even guess at, about these illnesses and how to get help and stuff. I had maybe some expectation of LEARNING, but not of them DOING so much.

    Although they have. DONE SO MUCH for me. I can’t express too much what it has meant to me, to have these people come into my life.

    I hesitate, though, to post this. I know not everyone is so lucky. That people struggle with knowing what to do, and where to turn, and not having access to what is needed, and stuff.

    Let me say, MY HEART IS AS THERE WITH YOU AS IT CAN BE. I fill with tears in my soul, at the suffering, at the sheer loneliness of not having anywhere to turn, of not having any access, of not knowing what to do, where to do it, who to do it with, why to do it, and when. All I can say is that I had two decades of it . . . many people have more.

    I do know know the why’s of the timing and manner of being blessed with this in my life at this time; I do not think its delay in my life was due to any spiritual issue, of righteousness or sin. I do know that the Lord has his own reasons and plan, but that is little to no comfort for those being buffeted by the hurricanes of these illnesses and issues.

    Still, I feel, and hope, that my post and future postings may contain something helpful, and hope that I am not offending or hurting those who have not been so blessed with avenues of information, knowledge, experience, and help, as I have been recently.

    Well, I guess I was able to address more than one, as it turned out. I have more yet to address, from your well-thought out and sincerely, deeply felt posting on the subject. Your deep desire to glean from others’ experiences things of use and help for others.

    I must rest, for now, but “I’ll be back.” My Austrian accent must be imagined, in this case. Hee!

  5. Mark IV says:


    Thanks, this is a worthwhile post on an interesting topic. I agree with both John F. and J. Stapley.

    As far as the distinction between counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist/social worker goes, there is at least one important consideration. Of the four, a psychiatrist is the only one who is allowed to prescribe drugs.

  6. Sarebear says:

    That isn’t to say that the iatrist is NOT supportive of my faith. I don’t do much, if any, talk therapy with him. We discuss things, and I let him know about side effects and how efficacious I am finding the medications, so he can best make his decisions in those matters.

    Psychiatrists can prescribe medications; psychologists cannot. They can both do therapy, although you will find that some iatrists will not or are too busy. And that their focus, often, is a bit different than that of ologists.

    I need to look up where I’ve read about studies, about consumers (that is the most oft-used term for mental health care consumers/patients; it is less . . . loaded than “mental health patient”, among other terms), and their satisfaction of care in the mental health arena, with just GP’s, or with ologist or iatrist. As they all have different approaches, and GP’s of course being the least knowledgeable, and lowest satisfaction. But they are a place to start, when you know not where else to begin.

  7. Jordan says:


    Thanks for your comments. Note that I am not seeking help for me personally, per se, just trying to figure out what people who need it should do.

    I have been around depressed people before, and they are not very likely to proactively get on the phone and call a doctor.

    I’m glad you had a good experience with a bishop- I have heard of bad ones, and with church members in general too. You were lucky to get a great home teacher.

    Now imagine if you had a home teacher like that guy over at BCC who thinks that mental illness does not really exist, and if it does, that it really should not stand in the way of our happiness unless we allow it to through our own free will. And you can see why one who is mentally ill or depressed should be wary about sharing those feelings at church- your bishop could be that guy!

  8. Sarebear says:

    I wish I could edit! I meant I do NOT know the why’s and timing and manner of being blessed with help at this point in my life.

  9. Sarebear says:

    Yep, that’s why I said, “Your deep desire to glean from others’ experiences things of use and help for others.” But I’m being my usual oversensitive self and probably pointing that out where I don’t need to. URGH. I hate being this way, it sucks.

  10. Sarebear says:

    Oh yes, I very definitely understand, and am particularly wary of bringing these issues up with church people and leaders for the very cautions and reasons and experiences you refer to. I must note, that the professionals I am seeing, are NOT LDS Social Services. And that the lady and husband who are experienced do not think much of LDS SS ability to help the mentally ill. Some counseling, fine, but those with long and chronic conditions, no. We are, though, trying to convince my husband to seek counselling there, as he is . . . in need of some professional support, given everything he has to deal with, with me.

    The bishop has suggested, and the lady’s husband is going to talk with him, man to man, because this is one of those things where a man will just NOT listen to a woman. Or so it seems. Men and not going to the doctor . .. what’s up with that? It’s a bit more understandable with mental health docs, as I can understand a bit of the perception, there.

  11. J. Stapley says:

    And- how do you know your professional is not a “faith-butcher”?

    I guess I’m coming from a perspective that mental illness has a physiological source. Consequently, I figure you go to the doctor to recieve treatment, just like you would for a chronic infection. Perhaps I am too trusting, but my understanding is that the medical treatment of the day is not even comparable to the therapy of yore.

  12. Sarebear says:

    Anyway, sorry to keep thinking of things to add on, as I meant to come back later, and still will, to address other things. I have a whole variety of other aspects and things to discuss, that don’t involve church, at all. So I’ll be back in the next day or two and relate more of what I’ve learned, if you’ll have me and aren’t sick of me. I’m feeling kind of . . . that the Spirit is . . . helping me put things in ways that . . . may be of benefit to someone. I can only hope this is so, but would not use that assertion of my feeling the spirit, to say that my ideas, experiences, ways, et. al, are THE or the ONLY way of thinking or experiencing or accessing or anything, ok? Just so you know, I wouldn’t use that to try to affect someone’s thinking. I just felt impressed to say it, so you may perhaps understand my . . . earnestness.

  13. Sarebear says:

    There are questions to ask any mental health professional, to help ascertain their ideology, methodology, and other important things for you to know if they are a fit, for you. Their views on spirituality, faith, religion, etc., being one of them. If the consumer is not able to, their spouse or advocate should do this for them. If no advocate, I would have that some family member or visiting teacher or home teacher or someone the bishop deems appropriate, could act as such. If such church people react in supportive ways to the ill person, that is. If it is not so, in your case, perhaps in some other manner, a friend, or relation, or someone could help you? I hope and pray. I’ll try to look up where I’ve seen a really good list of these kind of questions, as well.

  14. Jordan says:


    I really appreciate your comments on this. Keep it up!

    Along those lines, since you have faced this struggle- how DO you convince someone who seems to be suffering from depression and/or anxiety to go seek help without offending him/her?

  15. Keryn says:

    In regards to the concern about word getting back to a bishop about you (the hypothetical you, I mean) seeing an LDS counselor–it had better NOT. I’m darn sure that is a violation of doctor-patient confidentiality, not to mention HIPPA or HIPAA or whatever that federal law is.

    On a less militant note, you could discuss your concern with your LDS counselor during your first meeting. That should help with any worries about it getting back to your bishop.

    I had a “bleh” experience when I told my bishop about my mental illness. By the time I admitted I had a problem (I was lucky, it was less than three weeks after the symptoms reappeared that my parents insisted that I go see a professional, or else they were coming up to college to get me), the bishop’s wife had a premature baby, and he was absent from church for a month. So I was already getting all kinds of help by the time I had an appointment with him. After I tried to explain my troubles, he had a few vague statements about Heavenly Father’s time-table and told me to keep praying and reading the scriptures (note, he did not imply that this would cure me. He just wanted to remind me to keep up that end of stuff). I didn’t feel like anything I said really sunk in. Probably he was still worried about his baby. Anyway, didn’t help, but didn’t hurt.

  16. Sarebear says:

    Well, first, they may not have the finances/insurance to seek help. I do try to convince them to seek what help they can, though.

    I mention my own difficulties, and how battered by the storm I feel. I mention that having some kind of professional who understands, can be an anchor in the hard times when you think no one understands. Can be an external perspective to help you see what your emotional storms may drown out your ability to perceive. That it is helpful, both for the consumer and the spouse, because if the consumer gets help, it helps lessen, a little, the worries of the spouse, that, say, they may come home one day from work to find you dead. As my spouse frequently worries, not without cause. Although for a long time, it was without cause, as I was not anywhere near suicidal for a long time.

    It’s different for me, since I can try and connect with the person, and relate just a little bit of what my struggle has been like, and thus create a kind of common feeling or cameraderie with the person.

    For the non-mentally ill person, to try and help someone to see the need to seek help, I think it would be best to try as hard as possible to not be patronizing; to try to understand the person and their struggle as much as you can, while understanding and even expressing that there is no way you could ever really understand what it is like; but still TRY, and let them know you are trying, too. Please. Let them know of your sincere concern for their well-being. In a friendly, equal way, not a, “you need to go get care cause I don’t think you are capable of managing well without it” kind of way. Even if you think that, try to relate to them on peer to peer level (well, not like a fellow ill person, as you wouldn’t have that perspective, but). In a supportive, kind, and gently encouraging way. Too much pressure, or sometimes even a little pressure, can cause a collapse of the person’s feeling that people accept them; can cause them to feel like people would only accept them if they sought help; too much pressure might make them feel isolated and alone. I know it can be delicate, but let them know you accept them no matter what, whether they seek help or not.

    If you can, and are willing and able, let them know that you will be there for them, in any way that you feel willing and able to be. One thing that is helpful for people like me, is to have someone who will LISTEN, and really HEAR us. And reflect back to us what they have heard us say. That is helpful for YOU, because you can kinda reflect back what you’ve heard, especially when it’s difficult things that you aren’t sure what to say. We don’t want you to solve it, we want to be listened to, and valued. Have our struggle and feelings acknowledged, and where we are coming from appreciated. So if you are willing and able and capable to be a listener for someone, a shoulder to cry on, a kind encouraging empathatic person to receive the emotional cry in the darkness that we feel so often, then please do. If you don’t feel like you are up to that, that is alright as well.

    Educate yourself about ways to support and encourage and just accept the mentally ill, as you are doing. There are times where we cannot even contemplate taking any kind of action, and that is ok too. Accept what may seem like our laziness; we may very well be out of resources to cope and/or activate ourselves, at that point. Resting, and receiving the emotional and physical support and acceptance to do so, can be a GREAT Gift. A very, very, very great gift.

    It is essential that when we are feeling on the brink of a collapse, inside, that we be allowed to pull back and just be, and just rest, and just exist, and recharge, and soothe ourselves with whatever we need to “bridge” the difficult period, to get through it. Whatever we need that isn’t like, say, suicide, or cutting, or something like that to someone else. My ologist approves of my “banana split therapy”, as it is much better than the alternative. I like this ologist. Hee! Later on in therapy, we will eventually deal with not using food as reward, but for now it is much better than the alternative. Bring on the bananas, ice cream, chocolate sauce, and NUTS! Whatever soothes the person. Or gives them things to look forward. Silly as it sounds, when I cannot see ANY REASON AT ALL TO KEEP LIVING, knowing that I can have a couple banana splits a day for as long as I want, gives me little incentives to keep looking forward to. I generally only do this for about a week at a time, or so. (Yep, 1-3 naner splits a day for a week, I pretty much live on them during that time).

    A caveat, which of course you know but I must say because of my anxieties; I am not a mental health professional and am not pretending to be one, but am just dispensing my experiences, thoughts, feelings, experiences, and advice. And really trying to convey what it is like to be mentally ill, at least my experience, to help enlighten others to understand what it might be like. And to create perhaps a better experience for other mentally ill when that person who has perhaps gained a bit of insight from me, then tries to help them. It would make me so happy if I only ever even help improve ONE person’s experience, a little. Help even just ONE person understand just a little bit more about it.

    But as I was saying before that side trip, educate yourself as you are trying to do. Also, try and find out some about how to talk to those who may be contemplating suicide. Find out any resources in your community, so you can be ready with phone numbers and such, but don’t just automatically give them out and then quit supporting the person. People do this, or do what FEELS like this to the ill person, and they/we feel VERY rejected. A sensitivity, an EXTREME sensitivity to rejection or anything that could remotely seem like it, and abandonment is common among many mentally ill.

    So. Be prepared with phone numbers of crisis lines and such, but also LISTEN to the person. If they call you and say they aren’t sure they should be alone, respect that. You may be afraid that if you listen once, or respond with alarm and attention to such things, that they will feel “rewarded” and continue to use such threats of suicide to get attention and support. Please, do not reject them. If that is the only thing they feel they can do to get support, they are not getting much, if any support, kindness, friendship at all, at least that’s what I would think. Encourage them to get help, but give them what support you can.

    You obviously can’t just jump up and be there everytime someone might need you; you have to have your own boundaries, your own life, of course. The ill person needs to respect that, and it can be painful to draw these as you interact with the ill person. But it is essential for their well-being as well as your own.

    What would be great is if you could help the person build a network of support for them. A support system.

    Again, I understand that all these things might not be possible, in every situation. Or even all of them, in any one particular situation. Just ideas and things to keep in mind.

    I understand people’s reticence to listen to someone who mentions suicidal feelings. But it is important that they feel they have someone who cares, who isn’t going to reject them for having such feelings. I’ll try to find some professionally put together and psychologically-credentialed information on what people can do to support a suicidal or desperate person and post at some point soon, as well.

    All these things I keep saying I need to look up, are good. I have seen these things before; I just need to pull them all together. Obviously, finding well-credentialed and legitimate sources of such information, which I take care to do, as best I can see. Posting such information about desperate info and resources and what to say and how not to be afraid to help someone, and a very very short and clear list of, if they say THIS get them to the hospital immediately, etc., by the phone, can be a good thing.

    Again, no one expects you to be a mental health professional, and you can, in your efforts to support the ill person, from time to time reiterate that you are not, but that you will listen and gently encourage and support them as best you know how, even if you are afraid of messing up or saying the wrong thing. That’s a good thing to express to them, too. At least, in my opinion.

    Obviously, I am not sure how a, say, schizophrenic would react to all this, but support is good for all. Schizophrenic obviously needs professional help, as do other mental illnesses, but I can’t really speak much to how interactions and other things might affect them as I do not know, accept in the general sense of probably not wanted to feel rejected, and wanting to be accepted and loved and not judged.

    Again, if you can only listen to a certain point; if there are things that are too difficult to hear, please draw out those boundaries as these issues come up; not every one can handle everything, not everyone can be the deepest support for everyone. There are degrees of depth of support, and you can only go as far as you are able. As you attempt to support someone, you will have to decide where and what lines to draw. If you aren’t comfortable with listening to their struggles with, say, cutting, especially because you don’t know if what you say might enable or reward or encourage such behavior, let them know that. Hopefully without sounding patronizing, but let them know your limits as best you can. And respect that. It may be difficult for them to hear.
    Accept them, and try not to judge the behavior, and decide if you want to express your concern for them when you see such behavior (I have no idea if even expressing concern for seeing that kind of thing can “reward” them with attention for it; I have no idea what is best in that situation). You can only do the best you can do. You don’t have professional knowledge, and can only pray and seek counsel from say the bishop yourself, as to possible courses of action and advice to give. You can also, if you really want to, schedule an appointment or two with a professional yourself, and ask their opinions and advice as to how best to support the ill person in your life, especially if you have specific concerns about various behavior that you do not know how to handle.

  17. Sarebear says:

    It may be a fallacy, though, to say that expressing concern for their well-being, when seeing certain behavior, such as cutting, may perhaps reinforce their behavior. While I don’t know, I have read that with the issue of listening, even if they are talking about suicide, an issue about which people ARE afraid that listening to them will make the ill person feel like acting out on those feelings are ok; I personally have read, and felt from experience, that feeling heard, is SO important, and that, on the contrary, my talking about suicide and having a friend listen, makes me LESS likely to kill myself.

    Still, on a life-and-death issue such as this, best to find some certified information. This is just my experience. I’ll see what I can find to refer you to, although everyone is free to search for such information themselves, and post as well.

    Anyway, my point being that the perhaps fallacy of wondering if you are enabling by listening, could be extended to the ridiculous extreme of wondering if listening at ALL to their trials is making them feel like their acting out or whatever gets attention. That would be patronizing if I was treated that way, and I have been.

    Still, I see the concern of wondering that about very specific things, like cutting.

    I also wanted to emphasise the portion about letting them know you aren’t perfect. And the occasional reiteration that you aren’t a professional, IF IF IF it is paired with your love, acceptance, and saying that you will be there to be an ear, a shoulder, whatever.

    People like me can idealize people (well, so can everyone), and then get angry when you don’t live up to the ideal. Don’t take it personally . . . .

  18. Jordan F. says:


    Thanks for taking so much time to type informative comments. I can tell this issue is very important to you, and that it is very important to you to share what you have learned with others for their edification and learning. I appreciate your willingness to do so here.

    Now, a few thoughts about some of what you have written:

    1. People like me can idealize people (well, so can everyone), and then get angry when you don’t live up to the ideal. Don’t take it personally . . . .

    Everyone can/does idealize people and everyone gets let down and can feel angry when people don’t live up to that ideal.

    2. What is “cutting”? I’m not sure I understand what you are referring to. Insulting people?

    3. Well, first, they may not have the finances/insurance to seek help. I do try to convince them to seek what help they can, though.

    Perhaps for such persons there is medicaid. Although I know that there are real problems in this country with health care for lower-middle income types, particularly in the mental health care realm. Perhaps this really is one place where consulting with the Bishop would be a real help- it would unlock the coffers of the fast offering funds so that a person who couldn’t otherwise afford it can get help. I’ve seen that very thing happen in certain callings I have served in.

    So I guess going to the Bishop is a good idea in certain circumstances, such as when your temporal welfare won’t allow you to properly care for your emotional well-being.

    4. wondering if listening at ALL to their trials is making them feel like their acting out or whatever gets attention.

    This is certainly a valid concern, but I personally do not fear that listening to someone only makes that person more likely to “act out.” Rather, listening probably prevents future “acting out” because the person knows someone cares, and even if the person really was seeking attention in the first place (which I find highly unlikely because most depressed persons I have met really don’t want to be the center of attention- they would prefer at first blush that nobody even knew they existed at all, and at second blush they are grateful for a listening ear, as your words seem to indicate), listening to that person gives him/her the attention they were seeking, so no more need to “act out.”

    5. and can only pray and seek counsel from say the bishop yourself, as to possible courses of action and advice to give.

    I would tread very lightly here. Sarebear, would you want your hubby or other concerned friend to go to the Bishop ex parte and tell him all your troubles. I would be furious if someone “sought out counsel” like that on my behalf without me there and without my knowledge.

    Anyway- thanks for all the advice!

  19. Sarebear says:

    Thank you for your responses and concerns and queries.

    Yes, on that last, I’d tread very lightly as well. I would hope they would just mention in general, that they are struggling to figure out how to support their mentally ill spouse. Or, maybe even not that, and just say their OWN struggles with being the spouse of a mentally ill spouse. There is a distinction between the two, though it could be a fine one.

    Thank you for being so kind and supportive of my comments. What you say about it being important to me, and about why I share, and such, is exactly it. I just hope people don’t weary, of me. And of course I know I’m not the only one with experiences and possibly useful information to relate.

    And, it is helping my sense of self-efficacy, to do this. My last long post there, got off-focus and more rambly than I’d have liked it to, but for the most part I am pleased with how I’ve conveyed what I’ve had to say.

    It seems I’m a bit manic today, lol!

  20. Sarebear says:

    Oh yeah. Cutting, is when a person injures themself. Self-injury actually can be more than that; burning, bruising, using needles or pins to hurt onself, picking at pimples, etc. until they bleed and keeping such sores “going” for many months, etc. Sorry to sound so gross.

    Many people think it’s just a teen issue, and/or just for the reasons many of them do it, but that’s not so.

    It almost always is not about wanting to kill oneself, from what I’ve read. But I’m not an authority. I just know that I . . . . started this shortly after I started therapy, this summer.

    (Waiting for a slew of judgement and horrified cries of outrage and labels and crap).

    Actually, after someone enters therapy, they often become worse, before they get better, because of starting to bring up issues and difficulties they’ve avoided for so long.

  21. Sarebear says:

    Well, I started the cutting aspect this summer. More like scratching, really. There’s a different aspect I’ve been doing since childhood, and cannot stop, and discovered in therapy it was apparently a form of self-injuring.

  22. Jordan F. says:


    In your opinion, if someone is “cutting,” should they seek help from a mental health professional?

  23. john f. says:

    I would say that someone could just go in for a check-up/physical with a primary care physician and as part of the physical, discuss the symptoms and suspicions that they have created for the person who thinks there might be a problem. Then the primary care giver will make a recommendation for further consultation with a specialist.

  24. Sarebear says:

    Woops! I forgot to mention, the “Pretty Good” one, includes descriptions of four different types of mental health professionals, to help sort things out.

  25. Sarebear says:

    Resources for how to help someone in crisis and/or is suicidal:

    Good info, also check out the “Helpful Phrases and Questions for Dealing with People in Crisis” link on this page, and anything else that looks good!

    Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance info re: suicide. Information about helping someone and responding to an emergency situation is closer to the bottom of the page. Very good info.

    S.A.F.E session two. Scroll down for the sections on suicide. It has very specific things to do, such as ask about a plan, and what to do if the person has a plan. It also includes the national suicide hotline number, 1-800-suicide.

    The S.A.F.E. has other “sessions” or lessons, about mental illness. They look informative. I also know that NAMI teaches classes if they have them near you, a class for consumers (patients), and a class for family and friends of consumers.

    Anyway, there are many resources out there, both on local, county, state, and national levels, for people to look into. I hope I’ve linked some information that may be of use to someone.

    One thing I myself, found very helpful for ME (I stress that, as I am not a mental health professional), is the idea I found, that RESONATED with me. That was a very non-judgemental way of thinking about suicide (because judgement is so often made on the subject).

    It is that suicide is often when the pain the person is feeling far outweighs their ability to cope with it. Picture standing still, and someone is piling sandbags on your shoulders. You can take it to a point, but then they pile on 50 more. And, of course, you collapse, because your resources cannot cope with what they are being asked to cope with.

  26. Jordan says:

    Wow- thanks for all those suggestions, Sarebear!

    I *know* that someone will find them useful…

  27. sarebear says:

    Thank you Jordan. I was afraid I had hogged, and killed the thread, with all my posting.

    That one really long, rambly post (I try not to ramble but it happens sometimes; I am sometimes catching glimpses of the fine writing ability I used to have, and hope that it comes back to me; until then, my writing kinda moves with my moods. I was very manic that day, and THAT kinda comes out in my writing, lol! And in the quantity of it.)

    Still, embarrassed at the quality of the writing and the looseness of it, I am glad to have conveyed some useful and pertinent information! I got really excited at the thought that I could be of some use and even instruction (at the most, in the latter, as to what it is like to be ill; I wouldn’t presume to think that I am qualified to teach all the proper ways of handling such).

    Fearful though I was, I am glad I posted. I was starting to have a panic attack about it all though, so I’m glad you posted this recent reply. It eases my fear, a little.

  28. Jordan says:


    Let your fears be completely removed in the assurance that your comments are already having a salutary effect on somebody who really needs the help.

  29. sarebear says:


    Thank you.

    To have perhaps been an instrument in the Lord’s hands of being a conduit of some needed information . . . was my humble hope. If that sounds humble. Lol!

    I wish this person well and the best of resources and support and care.

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