030: Depression and LDS Women

20130820_Kristine Doty_0007Natasha Helfer Parker interviews Dr. Kris Doty regarding a qualitative exploratory study she conducted and presented at Utah Valley University with active LDS women diagnosed with depression attempting to understand possible contributing factors.  Factors which deemed significant were genetics, history of abuse, family relationships, feeling judged by others and “toxic perfectionism.”  The interview explores each of these factors in depth as well as how cultural influence and doctrinal misinterpretation from a Mormon perspective can affect depression.  Strategies on how to deal successfully with depression are discussed, including a look into how spiritual and religious approaches made available through the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be used in healthy, edifying ways.

Dr. Kris Doty is a graduate of Utah Valley University, having received her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science.  She earned a Master of Social Work degree from Brigham Young University and a doctorate in social work from the University of Utah.  Her research interests include cultural considerations surrounding Mormonism, welfare reform, and program evaluation.  Kris is a licensed clinical social worker with a specialty in crisis intervention.  Her practice experience includes crisis counseling in the emergency room at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, and conducting individual and group therapy at a residential treatment facility for adults with learning disabilities.  She is currently a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross and maintains a small private practice.  She is also a popular speaker and trainer on topics related to depression and early returning missionaries.  Kris is currently the Chair of the Department of Behavioral Science at Utah Valley University where she is also the BSW Field Director.  She has been married for 33 years and has five children and three grandchildren.

Many thanks to The Lower Lights for the beautiful bumper music and to James Estrada of Oak Street Audio for audio production of this podcast.

6 comments for “030: Depression and LDS Women

  1. Susan Gilbert, MFT
    February 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    My experience with LDS clients for 30+ years, is that nutritional support can be very successful along with therapy, to relieve depression and anxiety, without resorting to medication. Many MD’s are now warning against the long-term use of anti-depressants, and I’ve worked with 2 women who became extremely suicidal within a few days a starting an anti-depressant. I’m including below 3 excellent books that my clients have found useful.

    Also, my experience counseling male church members often brings up the absence of sex in marriage–often since husband or wife are on medication–is a key element of their depression. They feel that normal sexual appetite is evil and shamed in the church, and even at very young ages, they will have to live their lives without sex. That would be an interesting subject to study from the male point of view.

    Depression-Free, Naturally: 7 Weeks to Eliminating Anxiety, Despair, Fatigue, and Anger from Your Life by Larson, Joan Mathews (May 11, 2011)
    Love For No Reason: 7 Steps to Creating a Life of Unconditional Love by Shimoff, Marci and Kline, Carol (Dec 28, 2010)
    How to Get Off Psychoactive Drugs Safely: There is Hope. There is a Solution. by James Harper N.C. and Jayson Austin N.C. (Feb 20, 2011)

  2. Anon
    March 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I wonder if Dr. Doty has ever been depressed herself? I feel as though her mindset plays into the false thinking that if you are righteous enough and read your scriptures enough, you won’t be depressed. Or, “people are depressed because they aren’t trying. They must be sinners.” I assure you, I can not pray my depression away. I think many return missionaries adjusting to returning home would agree. I understand looking to the savior for comfort, but depressed people need real ideas. What can we DO about how we are feeling? I had a guy at BYU tell me that me having depression was like having a pornography addiction. There is this whole way of thinking around depression being sinful and it’s just plain false. It isolates people and makes things worse. I’m shocked that you were shocked that people didn’t list the atonement as a coping mechanism. I hope I’m not coming off harshly. It just seems like a very mormony and fluffy answer to a very serious and complicated issue.

  3. Rhen
    March 21, 2014 at 12:23 am

    This podcast sounded mostly like a relief society & very little like an interview with a mental health professional.

    Dr. Doty’s message in this interview is basically that church members with depression are doing something wrong. Wrong in the sense that they are misunderstanding the gospel, need to “calm down” or “relax”, are focusing on the wrong thing in the gospel & need to focus on the “celestial” view of the gospel, have “a terrestrial” view, etc.

    I really think Dr. Doty’s approach in this podcast just perpetuate the guilt cycle that church members get caught in and can lead to serious depression. The message is “the gospel should bring you happiness”—-> if you’re not happy then you are doing something wrong/you aren’t doing enough/you don’t understand it —-> you do more, you try harder —–> you’re still depressed —-> there must be something wrong with me, I’m still not happy —> do more, try harder —–> I feel guilty that I’m not happy… the cycle continues and depression takes hold.

    At 1:08 when Dr. Doty talks about the atonement….I am totally amazed! I agree with ANON, I’m shocked that Dr. Doty is shocked that people didn’t list the atonement. Dr. Doty’s discussion of the atonement & depression suggests that people with depression don’t really understand/utilize the atonement and that the atonement can help it. Again, she suggests that the person with depression is doing something wrong. If a church member is depressed because of “toxic perfectionism” how does telling them that, basically, they aren’t using the atonement ‘perfectly enough’ help at all?!

    I honestly don’t even understand as a health professional why she spent the majority of the podcast talking about how we ‘should’ be understanding the gospel.

    There is almost no discussion of the church’s role in creating a culture of “toxic perfectionism”. How the standards that are set are so high that people are bound to fail, how guilt & fear are used as a motivator, or how difficult it is for church members to reconcile the contradictory messages that are taught (for example: family is the most important thing but a calling that forces neglect of the family is somehow a blessing to the family).

    I’m sure Dr. Doty has the best intentions, but I don’t think her approach in the majority of this podcast was helpful at all.

  4. Jessica
    September 23, 2014 at 1:33 am

    I was 12 years old when I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder that was in many ways controlling me. Over the years it has drifted at times into depression.
    When I listened to this podcast I was impressed with Dr. Doty who reminds us that The Lord does not expect us to be perfect now. It’s okay.
    She warns that we easily become wrapped up in our behaviors: Do I do all of my visiting teaching each month, do I read the scriptures for a certain amount of time every day, do I bring a meal to every person who is ill, do I meet the expectations others have of me, am I an awesome mom, do my kids watch too much tv, do I attend every Sunday meeting?
    I think that what Dr. Doty emphasizes is that our behavior is not so important as what is in our heart.
    I for one stress myself out trying to maintain a standard of perfection. I often assume that I need to look like the RS First Presidency and to have a testimony as complete as theirs seem to be. And I am tough on myself as a mother and wife especially when I see other mothers who seem to have it all together- thank you Facebook.
    But what Dr. Doty reminds us is that our Heavenly Father knows us. He knows the exact struggles of our heart, and does not want us to be tearing ourselves apart trying to do everything. He wants us to love ourselves.
    As she said, the commandments are important anyone can follow the letter of the law but the condition of our heart is MOST important- the behavior will come on it’s own.
    I’ve been picking and choosing my battles. Sometimes I skip my Sunday meetings. Sometimes I say “No” when I’m worn out and need to sleep rather than run errands for an activity. Truthfully, it’s been a relief to know that I can do that and know that the Lord will still love me. He does not love me less. He knows that my efforts are the efforts of what I can manage at this time.
    I will not be a perfect mum but that doesn’t stop me from being a good mum. She says, ‘there is flexibility in the kingdom of God, there really is’
    This said, depression is a serious matter. The Gospel will give us peace in our heart but it is also a mental illness. I hope that women and men who experience depression will also be comfortable recognizing the blessing of modern science. I am blessed to live in a time when I can be treated with medication. With the help of the Atonement, knowing that the Lord loves me, that Heavenly Father loves me, as well as medication, I am well.
    I can function at my best as a mother and wife

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