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Conversation on mental illness

Deseret News - 12/11/2018

Individuals, families and communities have been destroyed by depression, anxiety and suicide. In this time of social media comparisons and outsized expectations, many constantly ask, "Am I good enough?"

In this week's episode of Therefore, What?, Deseret News opinion editor Boyd Matheson talks to Elder Devn Cornish of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about his perspective on this difficult topic.

Listen to the full interview by downloading Therefore, What? wherever podcasts are available. Continue reading for an excerpt of the conversation.

Boyd C. Matheson: That feeling of being less than I think probably adds to that downward spiral as it relates to those feelings of depression that we do think there's something wrong with us. And for so long I think the solution has been that people just say, well, you just need to buck up. You just need to choose to be happy. You just need to, you know, have a positive mental attitude. But it's more than that, isn't it?

Elder Devn Cornish: Well, it's useful to understand that the depression is kind of a spectrum of diseases. Sometimes people are sad because they've been through a sad experience. … It would be surprising not to be depressed when something depressing happens to you.

Some people have this overwhelming depression, as I said, without any obvious cause. And then there are people in between. There are people who've, in fact, had a difficult experience but can't seem to pull out of it. The reason it's important to understand that this is a spectrum of illness is because it helps you understand how to respond. When a person is having difficulty adjusting to a sad experience, encouragement and in some cases even professional counseling can be very helpful.

We've often thought in medicine that the people on the other end of the spectrum, who have what has been called major depression or depressive disorder, do often have a genetic biochemical defect in the way their brain makes and processes chemicals, and we think, well, they don't need counseling. It turns out that both people with this more minor situational depression, and people with major biochemical depression benefit from counseling and often from medications.


So understanding that depression is a spectrum of problems, and that both the emotional support in counseling, and in many cases, the biochemical readjustments can be helpful in either category.

BM: That's such an important insight for everybody listening today. … I want to shift now. In 2016, you delivered an address in the general conference of the church that has a title that to me is really the theme for our day today in this discussion around mental health and that is this question: "Am I good enough?" Am I good enough? I think we all ask that. Can I make it? Can I get through this? And so I want to talk for a minute about what drove you to writing and delivering that address, what inspired you?

EC: Well, thank you for asking that. You know, it's a wonderful thing when you have an opportunity to interact with the members of the church. When you get into a question and answer kind of an open conversation setting and you invite questions. … Because people don't want to be seen as raising their hands and asking something that might be embarrassing to them. Right? If you ask for written questions, anonymously submitted, this question is one of the ones that comes up most frequently. Can I make it, can I really have hope of happiness in this life and in the afterlife? It's a sad thing that we somehow have a misunderstanding of who God is, how he feels toward us, and what he wants for us. … He wants real happiness, growth, joy, glory for all his children forever. And he knows how to help everybody grow in ways that will allow them to have that. So a sense that I just am not going to make it, it's not going to work for me, is really a misunderstanding of who God is and what he wants for us. If he can create us, he can govern us and he can bless us.