A while back (Oct 05) I read a good article in the Ensign by Elder Alexander B Morrison of the Seventy about dealing with psychiatric disorders. He spoke from somewhat of a personal perspective if I remember correctly because he had a family member who struggled with mental illness. In the article Elder Morrison debunks several myths and misconceptions about mental illness. He first addresses the mistaken notion that all mental illness is caused by sin.
He writes, “The truth is that many faithful Latter-day Saints who live the commandments and honor their covenants experience struggles with mental illness or are required to deal with the intense pain and suffering of morally righteous but mentally ill family members. Their burdens—and they are many—can be lifted only by love, understanding, and acceptance.”
I have had many good friends over the years who have struggled with mental illness of one kind or another – depression, mania, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, severe anxiety, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, addiction and even multiple personalities. I have suffered with them and their family members as they tried to understand and cope with the serious problems that these mental illnesses have caused.
There has also been some personal experience in this area within my own family. I have seen firsthand how debilitating it can be when, in spite of every effort to be faithful and obedient, the effects of the disorder rob the family member of peace and full enjoyment of the fruits of the gospel. Because of personal experience with this heart-breaking illness, I have studied the subject in great detail in an attempt to understand and have greater compassion.
NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill sponsors a wonderful and rich education program called Family-to-Family. I have participated in the program and came away greatly blessed for the increased understanding and knowledge gained of what mental illness is, how it affects individuals and families, and what can be done to deal with it. I highly endorse it. It clarified many things that I had previously misunderstood about the disease.
I loved the talk by Elder Oaks in General Conference last year (Oct 06) entitled, “He heals the heavy laden.” He mentions mental illness as being one of the burdens that the Savior can lift and says, “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a “healing” cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are “healed” by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”
What do you think? Can obtaining a greater understanding of mental illness be a form of healing? It was for me.