028: Mental Illness and Religious Discomfort

Mental illness and other mental health issues are common among the human population, including among those who attend church and wrestle with religious questions. Sufferers may struggle to feel beloved and “seen” within their faith communities. In this episode, Susan Hinckley and I talk about our experiences growing up in homes deeply affected by mental illness. We also discuss the ongoing challenge of navigating these illnesses in our personal lives, as well as ways we each feel blessed by our unique difficulties and the wrestles into which they have led us.

We explore some of the reasons mental illness is perhaps considered more taboo and something to hide within religious (including Mormon) communities. What theological hurdles does mental illness bring into play? How might it create real or assumed distance from other members of our congregations?

We talk about bright spots that indicate an effort to normalize these struggles for Latter-day Saints, but also dive into the challenging effects of mental illness on personal spirituality and one’s sense of connection with the Divine.

This is a very personal episode but one we hope you’ll connect with, and share with anyone who might benefit from an open discussion of this topic. We’d love to foster increased awareness and conversation—in our homes, church communities, and within ourselves.

Links to items mentioned in the episode:

“Thru Cloud and Sunshine, Lord, Abide with Me!”, Sister Reyna I. Aburto, October 2019 General Conference

“Like a Broken Vessel,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2013 General Conference

Mary Jane Woodger, “‘Cheat the Asylum of a Victim’: George Albert Smith’s 1909–12 Breakdown,” Journal of Mormon History 34:4 (Fall 2008). This link is to a PDF of the entire issue of the journal the article is in. You’ll have to scroll to find it (starts on page 113).

Mary Jane Woodger and Joseph H. Groberg, From the Muddy River to the Ivory Tower: The Journey of George H. Brimhall (BYU Studies, 2010)

Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness (Vintage, 1996)

Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (Free Press, 1996)

Barbara Taylor Brown, Learning to Walk in the Dark (HarperOne, 2015)

Dan Wotherspoon, “Seeing Beverly,” Sunstone, May 2003
Searching for a copy to post here. Will be up soon

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