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Anchor yourself spiritually while dealing with mental illness, Women's Conference speakers say

Published: Saturday, May 3 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife Patricia wave as they leave the stand following the Sunday afternoon session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 inside the Conference Center. He spoke on mental illness. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his wife Patricia wave as they leave the stand following the Sunday afternoon session of the 183rd Semiannual General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 inside the Conference Center. He spoke on mental illness. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO — Speakers addressing depression at the 2014 BYU Women's Conference on Thursday said it's important to maintain one's own spiritual well-being when trying to help someone dealing with mental illness.

Rebecca H. Jackson, a stake Young Women president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mother and grandmother, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve did the mentally ill a great service when he addressed mental health problems in his "astonishingly frank" general conference address in October 2013.

"I am not a clinician or a therapist but I am a parent," Jackson said. "I had no idea how pervasive the problem is."

Jackson, who has a son with a mental illness, said dealing with a mental illness is like entering a foreign country with borders that are continually shifting. It's a new culture with a new language and new terms, she said.

"We had no idea. We had chalked his odd behavior up to teenage-itis," she said as she shared the story of her son's diagnosis.

She said those suffering mental illness need patience, kindness and loving support. Caregivers, friends and family need to avoid judgment, impatience and criticism.

Those suffering from depression and mental illness feel sadly disconnected from God and his love, so the caregivers become crucial in keeping them convinced that God cares.

"We are vital links in their staying connected," she said. "So we have to maintain our own spiritual well-being. We can become their iron rod but only as we hold fast.

"We have to do what's necessary to anchor ourselves while we're in the Lord's waiting room," she said, suggesting regular temple visits, scripture study and constant prayer.

Amy C. Curtis, a counseling manager at LDS Family Services, said clinically depressed and mentally ill people are like vessels of pottery that become broken and require repair.

Jesus Christ is the master mender, she said, a healer who is the joiner of souls much like those who practice the ancient art of kintsugi, which is the "golden joining" of broken pottery that ultimately creates a beautiful and stronger piece.

"(Christ) makes us stronger," she said. "It may take heroic faith and agonizing patience but he will heal. We'll all have a happy ending to our stories."

Curtis said trials create a need to depend on Christ and shared an "I'm a Mormon" video featuring squash champion Leilani Rorani, who worked through postpartum depression after delivering her third child.

Curtis said major depressions and mental illnesses can take years and many treatments to overcome.

Coping requires divine help. "The Lord wants to help us mend but we need to ask," she said.

She said serving others can often help and provide courage and purpose. Prayer is often the first action to keep depression at bay, but it's difficult during a dark time, she said.

"The key to enduring and overcoming depends on our turning over our broken pieces to Christ," she said.

Leilani Rorani: Mormon, squash champion, mother

Years after conquering the game of squash, Mormon world champion Leilani Rorani learned that conquering the challenges of life requires a different type of perfection. Visit Leilani's page at mormon.org/leilani

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with more than 35 years' experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@deseretnews.com

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