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Mental Health

The Savior loves each of His Father’s children. He fully comprehends the pain and struggle that many experience as they live with a broad range of mental health challenges. He took upon Himself the “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” for “every living creature, both men, women, and children” (Alma 7:11–12; italics added; 2 Nephi 9:21; see also Hebrews 4:15–16).

Our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships can be severely influenced by mental health challenges or mental illness. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us: “If you are the one afflicted or a caregiver to such, try not to be overwhelmed with the size of your task. Don’t assume you can fix everything, but fix what you can. If those are only small victories, be grateful for them and be patient.”

Like a Broken Vessel One in four people in the world will be affected by mental illness at some point in their lives. More than 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. In 2013, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland offered his empathy and advice to those living with mental health concerns or a diagnosed mental illness.

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Personal Experiences

The following videos are accounts of personal journeys toward peace and comfort while living with mental health challenges. These stories are not intended to prescribe one form of treatment or recommend a specific recovery model. We pray you find a message of hope through these videos as you discover that you are not alone and there is help—no matter what challenge you are experiencing.

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Mark’s Story Mark has a loving family, has served in a bishopric and as a high councilor, and has struggled with depression most of his life. He was ashamed he couldn’t resolve his depression on his own and discouraged that his prayers to be healed were unanswered. He couldn’t feel the Spirit despite his best efforts and thought that God had abandoned him. When Mark determined to accept God’s help and do whatever He asked, he learned that he is not an exception to the Atonement.
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Jenny’s Story Jenny was sexually abused as a child. Throughout her childhood and young adult life, she felt ugly inside and out. After joining the Church, her depression weighed more heavily—she believed in the plan of happiness but couldn’t feel happiness and was tired of trying. Jenny describes the challenge she faced in learning to trust God, find the strength to keep going, and accept a different perspective on life.
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Bethany’s Story Bethany continually strived for perfection in all aspects of her life. She began to experience health issues and intense feelings of fear and sadness as a youth. She was bullied at school, struggled with an eating disorder, and was afraid to talk to her parents. When she finally decided to reach out for help and treatment, she found the courage to keep going and keep trying.
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Craig’s Story Craig is a business owner, father, and former college athlete who lives with depression and anxiety. He felt like a hypocrite when he attended church. He felt guilty for not feeling the Spirit. After attempting suicide, Craig reached out for help and found hope.
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Emily’s Story Emily was an independent young adult when depression changed her life. She lost her faith, questioned love, and spent days in bed, crying and sleeping. Emily talks about her journey to relief through self-care, exercise, and nutrition and how it enabled her to find her faith in God again.

Common Questions

The reality of living with mental health challenges differs from person to person. Even when individuals have the same diagnosis, symptoms and concerns such as depression or anxiety may manifest uniquely. We invite all, including loved ones and ward councils, to prayerfully study the content below, counsel together as appropriate, and seek answers for specific needs and circumstances.

Just as someone who feels unwell may not have a serious illness, people may have poor mental health without a mental illness. We all have days where we feel a bit down, or stressed out, or overwhelmed by something that’s happening in our lives. An important part of good mental health is the ability to look at problems or concerns realistically. Good mental health isn’t about feeling happy and confident 100% of the time and ignoring any problems. It’s about living and coping well despite problems. (Source: www.heretohelp.bc.ca)

A mental health concern becomes a mental illness when ongoing signs and symptoms cause frequent stress and affect your ability to function. A mental illness can make you miserable and can cause problems in your daily life, such as at school or work or in relationships (Source: www.mayoclinic.org). 

Mental illness is the term that refers collectively to all diagnosable mental disorders. Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alterations in thinking, mood, and/or behavior that are associated with distress and/or impaired functioning. Mental disorders contribute to a host of problems that may include disability, pain, or death. (Source: www.healthypeople.gov

While we do not fully understand the causes, treatments, and remedies for mental illness, the doctrine of the Fall helps us understand that the body and the brain are subject to conditions of mortal weakness and imperfection. We must remember that while our mortal DNA is imperfect, our “spiritual DNA is perfect because one’s true identity is as a son or daughter of God” (Neil L. Anderson, April 2016). Hence, mental illness is a condition of weakness that is experienced in the brain and body that did not exist premortally, not a deficiency in the mind or spirit as the term “mental” illness might seem to suggest.

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, contact your healthcare provider, emergency services personnel, your bishop or branch president, or call a crisis hotline. 

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An inability to feel the spirit, or a general feeling of apathy or numbness, is often a symptom of mental illness. You are not being punished for sin. God has not forsaken you. When you struggle to feel the spirit, or to feel anything at all, try combining these suggestions with prayer as you are able: 

  • Counsel with others. Make every effort to counsel together with your family, bishop, doctor, and counselor. Thoughtfully implement helpful recommendations. 
  • Be patient with yourself. There are other reasons why you may be unable to feel the spirit or other emotions. Some conditions can last a lifetime while others will improve over time. 
  • Remember what you knew. Find an old journal entry or talk to someone you trust—have them remind you of personal strengths, spiritual experiences, and testimony that you’ve shared with them in the past. 
  • Fight through hard times. Have courage, there are people on both sides of the veil that are praying for you—don’t ever give up! Avoid turning to addictive behaviors or substances in an attempt to escape or feel something in your current situation.
  • Fill your home with light. Literally turn on lights or sit in the sunshine. Play uplifting music, listen to talks from General Conference, look at artwork, or read the scriptures or another good book. Make your home a place of peace where the Spirit can dwell. 
  • Check-in with yourself. Consider whether or not you can feel anything right now. If you feel numb or disconnected, talk to a trusted friend, family member, or Church leader or seek professional help from LDS Family Services or another professional in your area. 

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The Savior calmed the seas and brought comfort and peace to His disciples. He can help you feel peace and find meaning in life despite your challenges. If your depression has lasted for several weeks or longer, consider talking with a mental health professional for help and treatment. Try a few of the ideas listed below. Know that it may be very difficult at first and it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you: 

  • Be still. Set aside a time and place to quiet your mind. Practice mindfulness or relaxation techniques. Allow your thoughts to turn to God as you give your mind and body time to rejuvenate. 
  • Celebrate small victories. Success is success, no matter how small the accomplishment. Maybe you raised your hand in class, laughed out loud, or cared enough to hold the door for someone. Keep a list of these moments to remind yourself of these victories when life is hard.
  • Replace darkness with light. It’s easy to allow yourself to fall into a pattern of negativity when you are facing intense struggles. Practice replacing each negative thought that comes to mind with a positive thought. You might want to choose a hymn or other uplifting music to listen to when negative thoughts arise or ask for a priesthood blessing.
  • Practice self-care. Consider making a change in your daily routine such as unplugging from technology for an hour each day or establishing another deliberate habit. Seek pleasure in the small and simple things. Notice the texture of a flower, the flavor of a favorite food or sweet, the song of a bird, the color of a sunset or the energy of a pet. 
  • Move your body. Physical activity, combined with adequate sleep and good nutrition (see Provident Living for more ideas), will boost your immune system and be a natural antidepressant. You might want to walk outside, go running, dance, lift weights, or engage in another physical activity you enjoy.
  • Express gratitude. This doesn’t mean that you deny or ignore feelings of pain or depression; it does mean you acknowledge the blessings Heavenly Father has given you. At the end of each day, write down at least one thing you are grateful for – you may think of something that doesn’t hurt (such as no headache today), remember a memory of a time when someone was kind, or focus on something you can see, smell, touch, or taste right now (such as a soft blanket or the color of the sky).

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It can be hard to communicate the reality of living with mental health challenges. You may be worried what others will think. Maybe you have tried to confide in a friend or family member in the past but don’t feel that they believed that your struggle is real. Please, don’t give up. 

There is great value in developing and maintaining relationships. Pray for courage to talk to someone you trust, whether it is a family member, friend, Church leader, or professional, and remember that some will be more open and understanding than others because of their knowledge, sensitivity, and life experiences. Here is a list of questions to consider that may help you start a conversation:  

  • What can you say? Ask for a time to speak together—you are more likely to have a helpful discussion if the person you are speaking with is prepared and ready to focus on what you are saying. You can say (or text) something as simple as, “Hey, I’m having a hard time and really need someone to listen.” If you aren’t sure how to explain what you’re experiencing, find an article or resource online that describes something similar to your experience. 
  • What are you experiencing physically? Consider what your body feels like when you are struggling. Talk about symptoms such as chronic fatigue, frequent headaches, nausea, restlessness, slower movements or reactions, substance abuse, unexplained muscle pain, or changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns.
  • What are you feeling emotionally? Be descriptive—there is a lot going on when you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling with mental illness. Be sure to express feelings such as hopelessness, self-loathing, irritability, isolation, anxiety, sadness, fear, or guilt. Talk about how often you experience these emotions.
  • What do you struggle with socially? Consider how you interact with your family, friends, coworkers, and others when you are struggling. Talk about any behavioral changes you’ve noticed in yourself such as frequent or unexplained crying, withdrawal from others, lack of personal hygiene, disinterest in activities you used to enjoy, or less energy and motivation to fulfill responsibilities.
  • What makes thinking difficult? Daily life can be especially challenging when your cognitive function is altered or impaired. Discuss any symptoms you may have, such as thoughts of self-harm, indecisiveness, confusion, difficulty remembering things, or thoughts of death and suicide. Talk about how often you have these thoughts and what you wish was different.

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Thoughts of suicide do not mean that you are weak, flawed, or a bad person; they mean that you are carrying more intense pain for which you need greater support to help resolve your crisis. We encourage you to persist in your efforts to identify the resources you need to find relief. When life begins to feel unmanageable or you are struggling with thoughts of suicide: 

  • Tell someone. Go to a hospital emergency room immediately if you feel unsafe. Find a friend, family member, local Church leader, or call a suicide prevention hotline and tell them how hard things are for you. Sharing your thoughts with someone you trust can relieve a lot of pressure. Don’t let feelings of embarrassment, fear, or shame stop you.
  • Trust the Savior. Jesus Christ is here for you. He knows the pain you are going through—more perfectly than you could ever imagine. Show faith through your actions: kneel down when you pray and pray out loud, pray in your heart throughout the day, ask for a priesthood blessing, or and talk to your bishop. 
  • Make your home safe. If there are things you are thinking about using to harm yourself, remove them or have someone else take responsibility for them. Minimize the time you spend alone and have a conversation with someone you live with or trust to consider what precautions make the most sense for you in your situation.
  • Set small goals. Each evening, write down at least one task or goal for the next day. Keep them simple and attainable. Setting and accomplishing small goals can help you find a sense of control when everything seems unmanageable.

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Your loved one is not struggling alone – and neither are you. There are many simple ways that you can support your loved one through this challenge: 

  • Encourage professional help. It is not expected or appropriate that you attempt to evaluate your loved one’s condition or provide clinical help. Be sensitive and kind in how you suggest seeking professional support. Instead of saying, “Something is wrong with you – you need therapy!” try saying something such as, “I’m happy to listen when you want to talk.” You might also want to find a counselor or someone who is more prepared and trained to help, too.”
  • Keep communicating. Talk to your loved one the same way you did before their diagnosis. Ask questions instead of guessing what might be helpful for them.
  • Show compassion. Express your concern for them and offer your support. Don’t minimize their struggle and don’t compare their experience to someone else’s. Telling them to “snap out of it” or “try harder” is not likely to help and could just add strain to the relationship or cause further discouragement.
  • Understand limits. Mental illness can reduce energy and motivation. Recognize that it may be hard for your loved one to read, pray, or participate in activities with others—keep inviting them but don’t take it personally if they turn you down.
  • Know the signs. Suicide is often a risk for those with poor mental health. Become familiar with the warning signs and take them very seriously. If your loved one is talking about suicide, exhibiting severe feelings of despair, or seems to be “saying goodbye,” seek help immediately. Call a local emergency service provider, go to a hospital emergency room, or call a suicide prevention hotline.
  • Practice self-care. Stress can be very harmful to your health. Take time to care for yourself by doing something you enjoy each day—you might take a few minutes to read a book, listen to music, sit in nature, or draw something. You might also consider talking with your bishop or visiting or home teachers or attending a support group in your area.
  • Do your research. A person cannot get rid of depression, suicidal thoughts, or other serious symptoms by simply changing their attitude. Learn more about specific challenges or diagnoses, identify community support groups, and search for other helpful resources. There are many therapeutic models and alternative medicine tracks which have value and can be helpful. Prayerfully evaluate the best path for you and your loved one.

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