I personally am glad that the stigma among LDS is lifting, and that people are finally beginning to talk about depression and mental illness. There is an acceptance that mental illness is real, not some scam by greedy therapists. There is an acceptance that it has some basis in biology and cannot be simply prayed or studied away.
I did see this quote from an LDS leader (prophet) from 1986.
Ezra Taft Benson, “Do Not Despair”, Oct. 1986. (this is the fourth paragraph down), in case anyone would like to verify my sources.
“First, repentance. In the Book of Mormon we read that “despair cometh because of iniquity.” (Moro. 10:22.) “When I do good I feel good,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and when I do bad I feel bad.” Sin pulls a man down into despondency and despair. While a man may take some temporary pleasure in sin, the end result is unhappiness. “Wickedness never was happiness.” (Alma 41:10.) Sin creates disharmony with God and is depressing to the spirit. Therefore, a man would do well to examine himself to see that he is in harmony with all of God’s laws. Every law kept brings a particular blessing. Every law broken brings a particular blight. Those who are heavy-laden with despair should come unto the Lord, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. (See Matt. 11:28–30.)”
All I can do is sit back and wonder - and shake my head.
I've spoken before about undiagnosed depression within my family growing up. Well, no wonder! My parents were faithful mormons. We didn't drink caffeinated sodas or go to birthday parties on Sunday. My parents took their mormon faith very seriously.
Here was the LDS mormon leader, saying (in 1986) that depression happens because of sin and wickedness - because a person is not doing enough.
That a person first needs to check that they were doing everything right before admitting they are depressed. The cycle of self-condemnation and feelings of worthlessness will probably continue for the depressed person.
And for my friends who read this blog who are not mormon - the LDS prophet is supposed to talk straight to God. So hearing someone say something like this - it's very close to having God say it (for some believing mormons).
I'm not disavowing personal responsibility, because that is still there. But to hear this attitude, not from an individual LDS bishop or stake president, but from someone in authority - the attitude that depression is the result of sin begins to make more sense (to me).
How many people and families were harmed by this attitude and these types of statements? How many thought that the depression/mental illness was their fault and something they could change (without professional help or medication)? I'm not sure. But again, I'm glad this is changing.
For me personally, however, it is like a puzzle piece being put into place. It just explains more of my experience.