058: Addressing Missionary Health Issues

553_10151862718092814_471509790_n 11036673_916796835027581_3679190321686993095_nNatasha Helfer Parker interviews Drew Botcherby and Ryan Freeman who developed the Sick RMs website to address the emotional, psychological and educational needs of members of the LDS Church who deal with physical and mental health issues before, during and after their missions.  Every year, over 1,100 missionaries return home early for a medical reason. Hundreds more serve two years but still deal with injuries and illnesses that went unresolved during their missions. The goals of the website include increasing education surrounding these issues, provide a support network, decrease stigmas and bias, increase education and training of ward/stake leaders, mission presidents and their wives (who are often in charge of managing missionary health), and encourage better screening, diagnosis and treatment during missions.  If you’d like to share your own personal missionary experience the Sick RMs website wants to hear from you.  Also feel free to make comments below.

Both Ryan and Drew grew up in Springville, Utah, are returned missionaries and currently attend Brigham Young University-Provo.

Sick RM’s: An Open Discussion about Missionary Health Issues

Guilt, Pain, Help and Home – When Mormon Missionaries Come Home Early

Many Mormon Missionaries Who Return Home Early Feel Some Failure

UVU Reports on the Reasons for and Reactions to Early Returned Missionaries

Dr. Kris Doty – Researching LDS Culture

Many thanks to The Lower Lights for the beautiful bumper music and to Brian Dillman for audio production of this podcast.  Natasha Helfer Parker runs a private practice in Wichita, KS and writes at The Mormon Therapist for Patheos: Hosting the Conversation of Faith.

Donations to Mormon Mental Health are tax deductible and go directly to support the costs of producing the podcast.  If and when donations exceed these costs, they will go to support trainings, research, materials development, projects of the Mormon Mental Health Association and financial support for those who need help affording appropriate therapy services.

8 comments for “058: Addressing Missionary Health Issues

  1. Scott jenkins
    March 14, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Wow, looking forward to listening to this. I didn’t go on a mission because at the time I read SWK miracle of forgiveness, and all the talks at the time gave me the impression that I was a murderer and it would be better for me to come home in a casket. So when people asked why I didn’t go I just tell them I was going to school and had a girlfriend. So I set my lot as a third class Mormon. Over the years the question that people ask is ” where did you go on your mission” when you say you didn’t go, the look dumbfounded, basically wipe their hand off and walk away. Still today the shaming continues. In classes or in meetings, people will say “by a show of hands who went on a mission”? We don’t do this for other things. Someday I am going to say in a rebuttal, “by a show of hands who is a child molester? Or who has spent time in jail, or who is divorced, or who has gone bankrupt? I just avoid all classes, and social events where people would have the opportunity to interrogate or burn me.

    • March 15, 2015 at 10:18 am

      That is a sad commentary of the state of our culture.

    • Christine
      March 17, 2015 at 12:11 am

      Oh Scott, I am so sorry! That is so painful! For the record, I do not believe that you are a third class Mormon. You have more courage and honesty than most and that makes you first class! Thank you for sharing!

  2. A Happy Hubby
    March 17, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    Drew and Ryan – thanks for taking the effort to bring this issue to light. I am about to have a 4th son go on his mission and I do remember some pressures that were really out of line when I was on my mission. Because of what I have heard (and seen), I have told them that I am their father and the mission president does not stand between them and the Lord. If they really feel like they are not getting what they need – I tell them they need to find a pay phone and call collect if needs be.

    I know that most missionaries need a bit of a boot in the backside to help them move from boys to me (it sure helped me), but we need to really be careful not to take that too far and start going into “just have faith”.

    Just this last week I heard a return missionary talk about how he was going to bed each night crying and some other elder told him “you need to apply the atonement more”. I wanted to interrupt and say “NO! NO! – he needs a mental heath professional”.

    Thanks Natasha for another great podcast! I have donated to Mormon Mental Health to keep these coming!

  3. Jay
    March 23, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    My brother experienced something horrendous. Half-way into his mission, an ill-equipped doctor misdiagnosed a mental illness. His brand-new mission pres simply called my parents and told them to come get him (he was stateside). He didn’t talk to any of them. My parents drove to his mission, picked him up and drove home. Upon returning home, his bishop didn’t meet with him. He immediately left the church, turned to alcohol and other self-medication. A couple years later, now he is doing fantastic in school and is healthy. For a school assignment, he chose to research Post Traumatic Stress Disorder while simultaneously disclosing that he experienced this from his mission. The healthiest think he did was leave the Church and define his own life and vision of success. As much as some people find strength in the Church, there are others for whom it is a toxic environment. You may kick and fight to change this, but do so at your own peril. Even organizations with espoused virtues have the power to do great harm to people.

  4. YDS
    March 25, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    What is the difference between a Medical Missionary and what might be called a “Traditional” Missionary? Is it only that a Medical Missionary also provides Health care? or is there something else? YDS

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