For years, Kari Ferguson knew something was different about her. While she excelled at school and was a dedicated student, she felt something snap during her senior year at Brigham Young University.
“I started feeling as if everything I did was wrong,” she said. “I felt insecure and unsure of myself. I started questioning who I was and who I wanted to become. I didn’t want to pursue the dreams I had. My mind started acting as if it was controlled by something else. I was scared of being alone.”
Parents and friends didn’t know what to tell her, and a visit to the doctor resulted in her being prescribed antidepressants. They worked for a while, but Ferguson still noticed uncomfortable and intense feelings and behavior in herself.
Years passed before things got progressively worse and she accepted and began cognitive behavior treatment for an anxiety disorder known as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“I wish that I had known what I was dealing with earlier. I could have taken back my life from anxiety so many years before,” she said.
Her experience in regaining her mind and learning how to manage and deal with anxiety led Ferguson to write and publish, “ The OCD Mormon: Finding Healing and Hope in the Midst of Anxiety.”
“I learned that most of us in the church don’t talk about our mental health challenges. We expect that we can pray away or be able to overcome emotional struggles. But I discovered that god provided things like therapy and medication to help us,” Ferguson noted. “Mental illness is not a sin, and we need to be more open about talking about it because it is such a common struggle for Mormons.”
After her book came out, Ferguson began to think about the benefits of having a conference specifically for Mormons with anxiety disorders. She envisioned an event where those who struggled with anxiety could come together with therapists, church leaders, loved ones, and counselors. At such an event, stereotypes of mental illness could be challenged, members could learn that there is hope and professional care available, and leaders and family could begin to understand the mental illnesses their friends and family were living with.
Mental health event for LDS members
She and her husband founded an events company called Mental Illness Matters and reached out to two of her favorite anxiety experts: authors, counselors, and speakers Reid Wilson and Jon Hershfield. Though not LDS, they agreed to be a part of the ground-breaking conference the Fergusons titled Anxiety Disorders and Mormonism (ADAM).
With experts on board, the Fergusons went forward with their conference, booking the Joseph Smith Memorial Building as a venue for Anxiety Disorders and Mormonism on Saturday, March 3.
In addition to Wilson and Hershfield, the ADAM conference is bringing together LDS therapists, counselors, authors, church leaders, and anxiety sufferers from across the country to start a discussion about the reality of anxiety, a topic that Mormons have been silent about for too long.
“This conference will be the first of its kind, and I’m so excited for it,” said Ferguson. “Not only those who treat anxiety but those who suffer from it and their loved ones and leaders are invited to attend. Coming together to learn and talk about solutions is so essential. People need to know that they are not alone. Anxiety disorders are treatable. There is help and hope available. ADAM conference is all about bringing that awareness to the LDS community.”
Tickets for Anxiety Disorders and Mormonism can be purchased on https://ti.to/mental-illness-matters/adam2018 and more detailed information about speakers, panelists, and talk topics can be found on MentalIllnessMatters.com.